Police account of Watts shooting held in question

October 13, 2010
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Mashia Lewis wipes tears from her eyes while speaking to reporters about the death of her son, James Davis III, 18, who was killed by police. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

The official account of last week’s police shooting of 18-year-old James Davis III was challenged yesterday at a news conference held by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.

On Oct. 7, Davis was shot in the back by LAPD officer Manuel Castaneda. According to police, Castaneda and his partner encountered Davis and two other men near 114th and Grape in the Imperial Courts public housing project in Watts. Davis raised the suspicion of officers when he began to walk away from their approaching patrol car.

According to the LAPD, the officers left their patrol car to investigate when Davis grabbed a nearby woman and shoved her toward them in an effort to slow their pursuit while he ran away. Police say that while running, Davis pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the officers, prompting Castaneda to shoot. A handgun was recovered from the scene.

James Davis III lies on ground after being shot in the back by LAPD officers. (Courtesy of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police)

However, according to the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, witnesses say Davis had dropped his weapon and his hands were over his head when he was shot.

Police claim Davis was a gang member, but when asked by reporters if Davis was involved in such criminal activity, Davis’ mother, Mashia Lewis, said he was not.

“He was born and raised here,” she said. “All kids come in contact with the police, but that still don’t give anybody the right to take a life.”

Lewis describes her son, who was visiting family at the time of the shooting, as outgoing, happy and loved in the community. She said she is not angry with the police over the shooting or for not contacting her after her son’s death, but is simply demanding a thorough investigation.

A makeshift memorial for James Davis III on the spot where he was fatally shot by police near 114th and Grape in the Imperial Courts public housing project in Watts. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

“My son was slain,” she said to reporters. “I just want the truth. That’s all I’m looking for, nothing else.”

However, Lewis admitted to reporters that she is angry over the fact that police refused any aid to Davis after the shooting.

“They should have let somebody help him and they didn’t,” she said. “That’s what I’m mad about.”

According to Cynthia Turner, she offered to give first-aid to Davis, but police would not let her. Turner, who was visiting her mother at the time of the shooting, has been a registered nurse since 1996.

“I kneeled down to try and perform CPR and they pushed me back,” she said. “I told them who I was, that I was a nurse, that I was trained in the emergency room, [that] I was trained in trauma and they still told me to get back.”

When Turner heard gunshots from across the street, she ran toward the source of the sound to find Davis handcuffed, lying on the ground shot in the back.

Cynthia Turner points to the location she was standing when she heard the gunshot that killed James Davis III. As a trained trauma-nurse, she tried to give Davis CPR, but says she was stopped by police from providing any aid. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

“They were truly, truly wrong for denying him the right to medical attention,” she said. “I don’t know if it is because they thought I wasn’t highly trained to save someone’s life because I’m in the projects, but I just think that was totally wrong.”

One witness to the shooting, who would not reveal his name, told reporters that Davis was not a member of a gang, that often people in the community carry weapons to protect themselves.

“They classify everybody as a gang member,” said the 27-year-old witness referring to the police. “He had the gun on him to protect himself.”

His version of events differed greatly from the police account. He said Davis never turned on police and that police shot him after they picked up the handgun off the ground.

The president of the police union, Paul Weber, said the incident “could have been easily avoided.”

“Mr. Davis should not have been carrying a fully loaded semiautomatic pistol,” said Weber, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He should not have run. He should not have drawn and pointed the pistol. Had he refrained from any of these things Mr. Davis would be alive today.”

The job of investigating the shooting will be done by the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division.

Davis’ death comes on the heels of the LAPD fatally shooting Westlake resident Manuel Jaminez Xum. Police said Jaminez was armed with a knife when they shot him, but one witness testified to police that he was unarmed at the time.

The Coalition for Community Control Over the Police is asking LA District Attorney Steve Cooley to break from his political campaign for attorney general and prosecute the officers responsible for both shootings. According to a statement from the Coalition, the group is also asking for an “all-elected, all-civilian, police control board with full authority over the police in all aspects,” because, they argue, the police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.

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9 Responses to Police account of Watts shooting held in question

  1. ryno on November 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Well What do u expect?? You carry a LOADED WEAPON, run from the POLICE then POINT it at them while running .. OF COURSE YOU’LL BE SHOT.. I don’t care where they shoot you, in the back or in the back of the head, DONT CARRY A LOADAD FIREARM AND RUN FROM THE LAPD FOOL!!!

  2. DiMpleS on December 11, 2010 at 8:07 am

    He didn’t have a gun you stupid motha fucca!!! Get your facts straight bitch!!!!!!!! R.I.P MoOtHie! We love and miss you!!!!!!

  3. Lamont Lilly on December 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    As Mr. Ryno has proven, there’s always going to be a REASON to use niggas as target practice (there always has been). What else should we expect from Amerikkka? It’s time to stop singin’ and start swingin’!!!

    Much peace to Jonathan and George Jackson (8-7-1970) … oh, and to Tupac and his good work in Atlanta. When is it ever right that the hunter becomes prey?

  4. Jennie on July 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    You’re all so sad. If any of you would have kept up with the investigation, you would have found that Davis DID have a gun, and he DID point it at the police; thus, the unfortunate circumstance. The media only reports controversial aspects of news–one sided. When they found the police were completely within their right to fire, no one printed it.

    Young black men should find a better way to spend their lives. No matter how you paint the picture, he was guilty–and it was proven. The investigation was not conducted by LAPD, so there goes your next argument. You can’t live a life of crime and victimizing innocent people, and then cry racism when you have to pay the consequence. Police are here to take down the bad guys, and that’s what they did.

    Although it is unfortunate that a life had to be taken, many others were probably saved.

  5. john Davis on November 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Regardless if he had a gun or not, there was no reason for him to get SHOT IN THE BACK. the trigger happy ass cop was mad cause he had to get off his donut eating ass and run. I’ve been shooting guns in a range since I was 12 and I’m 21 now, no matter how many years of experience you have I highly doubt you can shoot someone with your back turned to them.

  6. Gary on December 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Well, he wasn’t actually shot the way it was reported. The tests and findings were/are open to the public!!! No one ever wants to hear of a life being taken–ever, but what is the alternative when a gang criminal is doing what a gang criminal does? This wasn’t a case of racism, or police brutality, or whatever; it is what it is. I grew up around gang bangers like this, and NOTHING is ever their fault!!! They live a dirty life, taking from the system and hurting innocent people; then, they cry racism or police brutality when they have to pay the consequence. I feel sorry for his mother, no mother should have to bury their child, but his life being taken probably saved many more. Maybe one day the low life scum will magically evaporate and these situations will cease to exist. Guns are for police and TRAINED individuals to use as protection–not as a means to implement terror in a neighborhood. One can note what individuals who comment on this site are a part of the problem. Get an education. Get a job. Get morals. Grow a conscience!!!

  7. Mashikia on April 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Well until court is over i would appreciAte u.keep.your damn comments to your damn self if you dont know all the facts and history please shut your mouth this is his Mother thank.you

  8. Lasaan Millard on June 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    I heard about this case about a year ago, and I’ve done some research on it for my major in Criminalistics. I do agree with the aforementioned statements: it’s sad when a young man dies. With that said, and from my researched findings, this wasn’t a man contributing to society and making a difference. This was a man you terrorized innocent people. Gang members are worthless and a drain on our society. If any of you want to know the truth: research it! The shooting has been investigated on more than one occasion. He was carrying a gun, pulled it out, and aimed it at an officer. There are so many ridiculous people claiming to be witnesses, but everyone wants their 10 minutes of fame. And these people sound so stupid on YouTube! Just plain ignorant and uneducated. I grew up in gang infested areas, and these gangs are ruthless. They kill, rape, rob, and destroy communities. When officers have to do their jobs and implement the law, the gang members are always quick to lie and create a different story. Gangsters are cowards! They want to live a life of crime but not pay the price for it. Growing up in these areas is what led me to the field I’m in now: law. One day I hope to prosecute these domestic terrorists. It’s unfortunate when young boys and girls get into the gang life, because there’s usually No coming back!!! Do the research! Justice was served to the innocent people of the South L.A. Now, what is also bad is that media only reports on controversy, and the public feeds into it. Let’s see what else the LATIMES reports on this matter…

  9. Brian Cresco on June 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I’ve read about this case on more than 4 accredited sources. What I’ve found is that he was shot in that way because he pointed a gun at an officer and another officer running behind him saw this and saved the other cop who didn’t realized what was happening just yet. Or maybe he reacted too slow. You all have to accept the TRUTH to be a better community and better people. Learn from this, don’t deny the truth. Let the past be a lesson for the future.

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