Anthony Lowe, a double amputee who used a wheelchair, was approached by two police officers on a sidewalk in Huntington Park, Calif., on Jan. 26 as a suspect in a reported stabbing.
The two officers then draw their guns, video shows. Lowe is obscured in the video when the police fire in his direction, but several gunshots can be heard. Lowe, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Huntington Park Police Department said in a statement Monday.
The Huntington Park police statement said Lowe “threatened to advance or throw the knife at the officers.” Lowe’s family and local activists, who are calling for the prosecution of the officers who shot Lowe, cannot understand how a disabled suspect posed enough of a threat to warrant lethal force.
“How do you need to put into words the limitations on his physical mobility?” said Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Community Control Over the Police. “The officers are in their full capacity. It’s beyond absurd to say that the officers are in any risk.”
Yatoya Toy, Lowe’s sister, said her brother was a “mama’s boy” and was his nieces and nephews’ favorite uncle. He loved football, dancing and cheering on his son and daughter at sports games. Several members of Lowe’s family called for justice at a news conference Monday. The family intends to file a wrongful-death lawsuit this week.
“My son was murdered,” Dorothy Lowe said at the news conference.
Huntington Park police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office are investigating the shooting, and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, the Huntington Park police statement said.
The police department directed a request for comment to the city of Huntington Park. City officials did not respond.
At about 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, Huntington Park officers responded to a man who reported that he had been stabbed, Lt. Hugo Reynaga of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said. The man, who was hospitalized in critical condition as of Monday, gave police a description of person he claimed had stabbed him, according to authorities. Police said that description matched Lowe.
Lowe was in a wheelchair on a sidewalk when officers attempted to detain him, Reynaga said. Bystander videos posted on Twitter and TikTok show Lowe, having exited his wheelchair, attempt to pull it along as the officers walk toward him before abandoning it and shuffling away.
Officers used two Tasers to subdue Lowe, but they were “ineffective,” the Huntington Park police statement said.
Bystander video appears to show one officer discard a weapon they were holding and draw another from their holster, aiming at Lowe. A third officer is then seen driving up to the scene, getting out of a police car and drawing a weapon. Several gunshots are then heard in quick succession.
The officers appear to be standing several feet from Lowe when they open fire. The videos do not capture any dialogue between Lowe and the officers.
The officers fired about 10 shots at Lowe, Reynaga said. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office reported that Lowe died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Reynaga, who is participating in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the shooting, said officers have reviewed additional security footage of the incident. He said the Huntington Park Police Department would make the decision to release that footage. Huntington Park police officers don’t wear body cameras, Reynaga added.
Toy, Lowe’s sister, questioned why Huntington Park police officers do not wear body cameras. The Coalition for Community Control Over the Police will protest the shooting in a rally on Sunday, Smith said.
Smith questioned the officers’ decision to use lethal force on a disabled suspect.
“He can’t do anything or go anywhere,” Smith said. “It’s frustrating to even try to capture this in words. I mean, it’s so evident.
“What kind of mind-set do these officers have to determine that this is the correct course of action?” he added.
Lowe had been slowly rehabilitating after losing both lower legs in an injury several months ago, Toy said. A few weeks before his death, he had gotten sized for prosthetic legs, which he would have received Monday, she said.
Lowe’s family is grappling with his death. He wasn’t there when the family gathered to watch football on Sunday — “You know he’d be talking mess about the 49ers,” Toy said — and he wasn’t there for his son’s first football game after making the varsity team. It didn’t shock Toy, she said, to be grieving so soon after footage of the death of Tyre Nichols prompted another national reckoning over police violence.
“When I see the mothers crying, I don’t feel like, ‘Oh, that could never be me,’” Toy said. “To be honest with you, the more I see it, the closer to home it was getting for me … I got a 22-year-old son of my own. I’m terrified for him. And I saw my brother. He looked like he was terrified when he was running.”