The Los Angeles Police Department has released bodycam footage of a January 3 encounter involving Keenan Anderson—a 31-year-old Black high school teacher, father, and a cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors—who died of a heart attack hours after police Tased him in the street.
Anderson had been involved in a traffic accident that day around 3.30 p.m. and was found seemingly confused and yelling in the street on the border of Venice and Mar Vista by an LAPD officer. In the brutal police footage, an officer is seen Tasing Anderson nearly continuously for around 35 seconds.
At one point, Anderson says “They’re trying to George Floyd me,” referencing the murder of the 46-year-old Black man killed in May 2020 by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“My cousin was asking for help, and he didn’t receive it. He was killed,” Cullors told The Guardian after watching the footage. “Nobody deserves to die in fear, panicking and scared for their life. My cousin was scared for his life. He spent the last 10 years witnessing a movement challenging the killing of Black people. He knew what was at stake and he was trying to protect himself. Nobody was willing to protect him.”
An officer who arrived on the scene at roughly 3:30 p.m. at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards found Anderson in the middle of the road, visibly panicked and calling for help. The officer promptly told him to move to the sidewalk and “get up against the wall.”
In the footage, Anderson is seen holding up his hands and responding to the officer’s commands, saying, “I didn’t mean to” and that he was “sorry.”
After complying with the cop’s commands, Anderson is seen sitting down on the sidewalk. Afterward, he expresses concern about the officer’s behavior, stating, “I want people to see me,” and, “You’re putting a thing on me.”
At one point, Anderson flees and the officer pursues him on his motorcycle, shouting “get down to the ground, now” and telling him to “turn over on your stomach.”
One LAPD officer then forces his elbow onto Anderson’s neck while another Tases him for approximately 30 seconds before stopping and Tasing him for another five seconds. This is when Anderson makes haunting cries for help and references the murder of Floyd in the streets of Minneapolis.
Paramedics arrived on the scene later and took Anderson to a hospital where, according to the LAPD, he went into cardiac arrest four and a half hours later and died.
“It was a traffic accident. Instead of treating him like a potential criminal, police should have called the ambulance,” Cullors said. “These types of killings and this type of force will not be interrupted unless we have courageous elected officials come forward and challenge not just the police, but also the policies.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore spoke in a news conference on Wednesday, saying that Anderson’s behavior was “erratic” and his death was the result of a “medical emergency.” He also claimed that a preliminary blood test revealed cannabis and cocaine in Anderson’s system.
However, a formal cause of death is yet to be determined.
Moore says that the Taser was used against Anderson 10 times but not all activations were deemed “effective.”
“It’s unclear what role the physical struggle with the officers and the use of the Taser played in his unfortunate death,” he said.
LAPD policy states that there is no limit on the “number of times a Taser can be used in a particular situation,” but officers should absolutely avoid excessive use to prevent injury.
Mayor Karen Bass has since spoken on the incident, calling it “deeply disturbing” and adding: “We must reduce the use of force overall, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive force … When there is no immediate risk to others, law enforcement must not be the first responder when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Anderson is survived by his child. He was employed as an English teacher at the Digital Pioneers Academy, a majority-Black school in Washington D.C. Cullors says that he was visiting L.A. and had previously worked at a charter school in Watts.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Keenan Anderson, a 10th-grade English teacher at Digital Pioneers Academy,” the DPA said in a statement. “The details of his death are as disturbing as they are tragic. He suffered cardiac arrest after being forcibly restrained and repeatedly tased by police following a traffic accident. Keenan is the third person killed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2023, and we’re 12 days into the new year.”
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