The Los Angeles Police Commission has ruled that several police officers deviated from department policy during the arrest of Keenan Anderson, a 31-year-old teacher and father who died after a traffic stop in January. The commission found that officers restrained and shocked Anderson with a Taser, even after he no longer posed an immediate threat. It was also determined that two officers held Anderson down by the neck, which is considered deadly force under LAPD policy. The incident sparked debates about police handling of individuals in distress and calls for changes to police policies related to traffic enforcement and the use of stun guns.
The ruling by the commission aligns with the conclusions of LAPD Chief Michel Moore and an internal department review board, although the board itself was divided on several policy questions. Anderson’s case gained international attention due to his relation to Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass strongly condemned the incident and called for accountability.
Veteran civil rights attorney Carl Douglas, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Anderson’s family, welcomed the commission’s ruling as a step towards justice. However, he acknowledged that the fight is not over, as the city has already denied responsibility for Anderson’s death in court motions. Douglas also highlighted the lack of training for officers on appropriate Taser use and the misinterpretation of resistance during encounters.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, representing rank-and-file officers, strongly disagreed with the commission’s findings, stating that the officers acted responsibly in dealing with Anderson, who was allegedly high on cocaine and caused a car accident before fleeing into traffic. The league argued that Anderson alone was responsible for the outcome.
The encounter leading to Anderson’s death began with a hit-and-run car crash, after which Officer Joshua Coombs encountered Anderson in distress. Anderson initially complied with orders but then ran away, expressing fear for his safety. Coombs, along with Officers Jaime Fuentes and Rasheen Ford, pursued Anderson and eventually restrained him on the ground. Two additional officers, Christopher Walters and Stephen Feldman, later joined in.
The commission’s review of the case resulted in a unanimous decision that all Taser deployments by Officer Fuentes were out of policy. The department’s force review board had initially faulted Fuentes for the final two Taser uses. The commission’s ruling was made during a closed-door session, which was briefly interrupted due to disruptions in the audience.