Walter William DeLeon, a man critically wounded by Los Angeles police last week, was a construction worker who often carried a towel because he was sweaty, his family said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Monday. DeLeon, 48, was on foot when he reportedly used a towel to flag down two LAPD officers in a squad car.
It would have been out of the man's character to do something that warranted the officers' use of deadly force, said William DeLeon, the man's 18-year-old son. "At first, I thought it was like a random person that [shot him]," he said. "Then I found out it was the cops. I didn't understand why, because I know my dad wouldn't do anything to provoke it. He just tries to get by."
Officials said the officers believed Walter DeLeon might have been carrying a weapon and that he moved “aggressively” toward them before they opened fire last Friday. DeLeon remained in critical condition Monday, according to the LA Times.
While an investigation into the June 19 shooting was still in the preliminary stages Monday, officials had no explanation for why DeLeon would have come in contact with the two officers. "He didn't appear to be flagging down the officers because of some sort of emergency," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Investigators did not find a broken-down car, and DeLeon was not seeking the officers’ help for an injury, Smith added. The two officers, whom officials have not named, sat in heavy traffic on a congested Los Angeles street when DeLeon approached their squad car. Smith said witnesses have corroborated the officers’ version of events.
The officers, who have been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, were not wearing department-issued body cameras, and a dash camera was not affixed to their squad car, the LA Times reported.
Los Angeles is one of a handful of major U.S. cities with a body camera pilot program. Civil rights activists have called for police-worn body cameras in the wake of several high-profile police shootings involving unarmed black men.