"Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, and I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances at this point," Police Chief Charlie Beck
Beck made that remark after viewing a videotape of the incident, which occurred Tuesday night near Venice Beach. Police aren't releasing the video, Beck said.
The victim was identified as Brendon K. Glenn, 29, and an autopsy is pending, said Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. Glenn was described as homeless by several local media outlets.
Najee Ali, a community activist and political director of National Action Network, told reporters that the killing "was another example of an unarmed African-American being shot and killed by police for no reason."
Ali commended Beck, saying it's the first time that he has heard such remarks from a Los Angeles police chief in his 25 years of activism.
"We want that officer put in jail," Ali said, calling upon prosecutors to file charges against the officer who shot and killed the homeless man.
The police officers' union, however, quickly criticized Beck.
"It is completely irresponsible for anyone, much less the Chief of Police, to render a judgment on an incident that is in the early stages of the investigation," Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said in a statement.
"Additionally, by making his opinion public without having all of the facts, he influences the investigation for all parties involved, including his command officers and the public," Lally said. "We encourage everyone to reserve judgment until the investigation has run its course and the facts are collected and assessed."
Beck acknowledged his comments were "preliminary."
"I know there is a tremendous public interest in this," Beck said. "We are actively looking for witnesses, and we are actively looking for more video. That may explain the circumstances.
"But in trying to be open on a discussion that is very much a national discussion, one that has reached all the way to the President's office, I want to make sure that Angelenos know that we take this incident very seriously," Beck said.
Beck was referring to recent protests about how police officers have fatally shot unarmed men, often black, in some cities around the country, most recently in Baltimore.
On Thursday morning, a handful of activists with Occupy Venice Beach called for an end to the killings by police.
On Thursday night, Los Angeles police are scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in the Venice Beach neighborhood to address the officer-involved shooting.
Police haven't released the name of the officer, other than to say that investigators couldn't immediately interview him because he was on medication after the shooting.
The shooting occurred late Tuesday night when two officers responded to a call about an individual harassing customers just a block from Venice Beach's boardwalk, police said. The boardwalk is a renowned tourist destination, but at night, the promenade is often emptied of tourists.
When officers found the man, they spoke with him, and the suspect walked away toward the boardwalk, police said.
The two officers returned to their car and noticed the suspect "physically struggle" with someone, police said.
"The officers attempted to detain the suspect and an altercation occurred between the two officers and the suspect," police said in a statement. "During that physical altercation an Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) occurred."
The officers performed CPR on the suspect, and an ambulance took the suspect to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.
One of the officers suffered a knee injury in the incident, police said.
Both officers are assigned to nonfield duties pending the outcome of this investigation, Beck said.