AG won’t seek charges in LAPD shooting of man with fake gun

Nov 3, 2022, 1:14 PM | Updated: 6:02 pm
This Thursday July 15, 2021 police body camera image provided by the Los Angeles Police Department ...

This Thursday July 15, 2021 police body camera image provided by the Los Angeles Police Department shows a police officer taking aim at a suspect pointing what appears to be a weapon at an officer along Hollywood Blvd. in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. California's attorney general will not seek criminal charges against Los Angeles police officers who fatally shot a man on Hollywood Boulevard last year, even though it turned out the gun he carried was fake. Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 announcement by Attorney General Rob Bonta ends his first such review under a new California law that requires the state Department of Justice to review all incidents where an officer shoots and kills an unarmed civilian in the state. (Los Angeles Police Department via AP)

(Los Angeles Police Department via AP)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s attorney general said Thursday that he will not seek criminal charges against Los Angeles police officers who fatally shot a man on Hollywood Boulevard last year, even though it turned out the gun he carried was fake.

The shooting caused panic on the busy street, with tourists and bystanders ducking for cover.

It’s the first such review under a new California law that requires the state Department of Justice to review all incidents where an officer shoots and kills an unarmed civilian in the state.

In this case, officers said they responded before noon on July 15, 2021, to reports that Matthew James Sova was walking with a handgun along the Walk of Fame, and at least one person reported seeing him pointing the gun at someone. He also had a small black folding knife with an open blade that he earlier pointed toward a building security guard, according to the department’s report.

Sova “pointed what appeared to be a pistol, but was actually a lighter that looked like a firearm, at Officer (Christopher) Tabela,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “After a detailed analysis, DOJ concluded there was substantial evidence that officers (Isaiah) Galvez and Tabela acted in self-defense, and in the defense of others.”

The two LAPD officers fatally shot Sova less than a block from the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are normally presented, and near the famed corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

“Man, why?” Tabela could be heard asking Sova before the officer fruitlessly began performing CPR.

Although Bonta’s office cleared the officers, it recommended that the LAPD make sure officers are trained on calling in the department’s Mental Evaluation Unit and review whether Sova’s death “could have been avoided.”

The initial call to LAPD said Sova was “acting crazy and loudly saying a bunch of different things.” He’d had 12 previous contacts with law enforcement related to his mental health, 10 of them with the LAPD Mental Health Unit.

Using other means “to address a potential mental health crisis … may have given the officers time to engage in meaningful de-escalation,” the review found. In this case, “both officers transitioned to a lethal response almost immediately upon arriving at the scene.”

Chief Michel Moore said the LAPD will review the recommendations.

State lawmakers in 2020 required the attorney general to decide whether police violated the law in cases where civilians die. Previously, local prosecutors usually made those decisions, but legislators were spurred by nationwide outrage over killings by police and concerns that county district attorneys could be too close to local law enforcement agencies they work with on a daily basis.

The law shifting investigations to the state took effect on July 1, 2021, just days before the Walk of Fame shooting.

Bonta announced how his office would handle the investigations on July 7, 2021. Under those procedures, the department’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California went to the scene as soon as it was notified of the shooting by the Los Angeles Police Department. The team sent its report to the department’s Special Prosecutions Section for a decision on whether officers broke the law.

In this case, investigators interviewed seven emergency workers and 13 civilian witnesses. They also reviewed other evidence including video from surveillance cameras and cameras worn by the officers.

He said the department’s goal is to complete reviews within a year, and this first investigation took longer than he wanted. But he said the results of the 24 other cases currently under review should now come more quickly as investigators have become more comfortable in their approach.

Bonta co-authored the law when he was in the state Assembly. It was narrowed from a broader version that would have allowed local officials to also request state investigations where armed suspects were killed. That change came after Bonta’s predecessor as attorney general raised concerns about the cost and workload. And it doesn’t apply to deaths other than by shootings.

“This effort is personal for me. I’ve heard firsthand the hurt and the pain that so many families and communities feel in the moments after these incidents. I’ve witnessed the lack of trust,” Bonta said. He said moving responsibility to the state provides “a chance to insert more transparency and accountability into these investigations.”

The law leaves it to local law enforcement agencies to review whether officer followed departmental procedures or if there is any civil liability, as well as review any suspected crime that may have led to the shooting.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Chevron sign is displayed outside one of the company's gas stations in Bradenton, Fla., Fe...
Associated Press

Biden eases Venezuela sanctions as opposition talks resume

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Saturday eased some oil sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to support newly restarted negotiations between President Nicolás Maduro’s government and its opposition. The Treasury Department is allowing Chevron to resume “limited” energy production in Venezuela after years of sanctions that have dramatically curtailed oil and gas profits […]
12 hours ago
FILE - This file booking photo provided by the Delaware Department of Justice shows Barry Croft Jr....
Associated Press

Judge denies bid for new trial in Whitmer kidnapping case

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a new trial request by two men convicted of conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Lawyers for Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. alleged misconduct by a juror and unfairness by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker following their conviction by a federal jury […]
12 hours ago
FILE - This photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Kevin Johnson.  A federa...
Associated Press

Judge denies 19-year-old’s ask to attend father’s execution

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request from a 19-year-old woman to allow her to watch her father’s death by injection, upholding a Missouri law that bars anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution. Kevin Johnson is set to be executed Tuesday for killing Kirkwood, Missouri, Police Officer William McEntee in […]
12 hours ago
FILE - This March 6, 2014, file photo shows the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's only unde...
Associated Press

US nuclear waste repository begins filling new disposal area

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Workers at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository have started using a newly mined disposal area at the underground facility in southern New Mexico. Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant made the announcement this week, saying the first containers of waste to be entombed in the new area came […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Broward County Courthouse i...
Associated Press

New state voter fraud units finding few cases from midterms

WASHINGTON (AP) — State-level law enforcement units created after the 2020 presidential election to investigate voter fraud are looking into scattered complaints more than two weeks after the midterms but have provided no indication of systemic problems. That’s just what election experts had expected and led critics to suggest that the new units were more […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Liability finding in Conley rape allegation to be appealed

CLEVELAND (AP) — An attorney is vowing an appeal for a woman found liable by a civil jury for malicious prosecution in a rape allegation she made against a former Ohio State football standout more than five years ago. The woman’s attorney, Patrick Thomas, said his client “deserves justice and patiently waited for her day […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
AG won’t seek charges in LAPD shooting of man with fake gun