After a month-long investigation, the Attorney General’s Office has acquitted two Los Angeles police officers of criminal misconduct in the July 2021 shooting death of a mentally ill man on a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.
The results were the first made by Atty. General Rob Bonta’s office under a state law requiring the Attorney General to review all fatal police shootings of unarmed individuals for possible criminal charges.
Officers Isaiah Galvez and Christopher Tabela had reason to believe their lives were in danger when they shot Matthew James Sova, the review concluded.
Although none of the officers agreed to be questioned by state investigators, an earlier investigation by the LAPD found that they believed a metal object in Sova’s hand was a weapon and that he intended to kill her or others. .
The object later turned out to be a gold-plated butane lighter with a pistol-grip handle.
“My office has determined that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges,” Atty said. said General Rob Bonta in a statement accompanying a report of the shooting. “But make no mistake: there is no scenario where we should accept the loss of life through violence as the normal course of events.”
The Los Angeles Police Commission had previously ruled that officers’ use of deadly force was justified.
The incident happened on the morning of July 15. After receiving a 911 call about a possibly armed man threatening people, officers encountered Sova walking down Hollywood Boulevard. A brief chase ensued, and officers shot 48-year-old Sova outside a McDonald’s near the intersection of Hollywood and Highland Avenues.
The shooting was condemned by advocates of police accountability and came under scrutiny when initial reports of Sova being in possession of a gun were proven false.
Thursday’s finding was the first of its kind since Bonta’s office was tasked with investigating fatal police shootings under a state law that went into effect last July. Since then, the bureau has opened investigations into about two dozen law enforcement shootings across the state, including four involving LAPD officers.
Investigators said their investigation involved “hundreds of hours of investigation” based on dozens of witness interviews, as well as review of body-worn and surveillance cameras of the incident. The report also included a timeline for the shooting, which showed a couple calling 911 to report that a man was “acting crazy and saying a lot of different things out loud” while holding what appeared to be a gun.
The information that Sova was armed was repeatedly broadcast over the police radio in the minutes leading up to the shooting, the report said.
As he got out of his squad car, Galvez shouted, “He’s got a gun!” and both officers repeatedly ordered Sova to “drop the gun,” according to the report, before firing. Investigators determined that Galvez originally intended to use a less deadly weapon on Sova, but did not.
Investigators also spoke to Sova’s mother, who told them that her son has long struggled with his mental health. After a brief stint in a Michigan psychiatric facility, he had moved back to Los Angeles, where she believed he was homeless and living on the streets. She said she last spoke to him the day before the shooting.
The state report revealed that Sova had 12 encounters with law enforcement from August 2017 to January 2021, including 10 contacts with the LAPD’s Mental Health Division. On several occasions, the report said, Sova fired in front of passing fire trucks and police cruisers, and his actions were at times “riddled with irrational communication, aggressive delusional behavior and paranoid tendencies.”
In his last contact with law enforcement on Jan. 29, 2021, he was taken into custody and transported for treatment after being seen running in and out of traffic and trying to get into parked vehicles, investigators said.
Staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-03/state-clears-lapd-officers-in-the-fatal-shooting-of-man-on-hollywood-boulevard State clears LAPD officers in the fatal shooting of man on Hollywood Boulevard