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Struggle between suspect and cops leads to fatal police shooting

Several bystanders captured the scene in downtown Los Angeles on cellphone video.
Tents set up by homeless people sit in front of a building on Skid Row, Feb. 4, 2015, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)
Tents set up by homeless people sit in front of a building on Skid Row, Feb. 4, 2015, in Los Angeles, Calif.

Los Angeles police officers fatally shot a man on Sunday while they say they struggled with the suspect over one of the cop's guns, authorities said. Several bystanders captured the scene on cellphone video.

Around noon on Sunday, several officers responded to a radio call of a robbery. When they arrived to San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles, the suspect "immediately began fighting officers," authorities posted to the department's Twitter account. The officers attempted to use a Taser to subdue the suspect, but he allegedly continued fighting and resisting the officials before falling to the ground, police wrote in a press release. The officers and suspect reportedly struggled on the ground as one of the cop's guns fired.

"While on the ground, the suspect and officers struggled over one of the officer's handguns and then an officer-involved shooting occurred," authorities wrote in the report.

Disturbingly graphic and expletive-ladencellphone footage posted to Facebook by a witness has now been removed. It appeared to show a man swinging at a group of officers as they tried to take him into custody. One of the officer's batons falls to the ground and a woman attempts to pick up the item. Then, as seen in the video, two officers try to subdue her while four others continue to wrestle with the man. Shouting can be heard. Several witnesses recorded the incident, video of which since has been widely circulated over social media. The footage shows the verbal unrest that erupted between the witnesses and officers as additional responding police cruisers arrive on scene. Officers also cordoned off the area.

There have been conflicting accounts from many of the witnesses about what they saw. Witnesses at the scene reportedly told The Los Angeles Times  the victim's name is “Africa,” but police have not formally identified the suspect.

RELATED: City says Tamir Rice to blame for shooting death

The woman who tried to pick up the police baton was detained and is expected to be arrested, Cmdr. Andrew Smith told The Los Angeles Times.

Two officers involved in the incident suffered minor injuries, police said.

The area of the incident is often referred to as "Skid Row," where many of the city's homeless individuals live.

On its Twitter page, the LAPD promised to update the public on developments in an effort to increase transparency between the department and community. Officers wrote in the release that they plan to use the video footage during their investigation.

Last summer, LAPD fatally shot 25-year-old Ezell Ford, a mentally-ill, unarmed black man. Authorities said police shot Ford when he reached for one of the officer's guns. His death came two days after the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which prompted weeks of protests.

In New York City last year, a grand jury decided not to indict a white officer in the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died in an apparent police chokehold. The incident that led to Garner’s death was recorded on video and widely distributed in the media.

Americans around the country have pushed for greater transparency with police officers in their neighborhoods following the recent deaths of Garner, Brown, and Tamir Rice at the hands of cops. Community leaders in Cleveland, Ohio, where Rice was shot outside of a recreation center in November, are working with city officials to require police in every district to wear body cameras by June. The City of Cleveland says that 12-year-old Rice, who was shot and killed while playing with a pellet gun, and his family are to blame for his death.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in December shared with the public his plans to purchase 7,000 body cameras for the city's police officers to increase transparency among the force, according to The Los Angeles Times. Police are expected to be equipped with the technology by the end of this year. The president of the Police Commission spent months raising private money for the body cameras.