After outcry from various outlets, the city council of Culver City voted to remove Culver City Police Lieutenant Luis Martinez from his role as the labor representative on the Equity and Human Relations Advisory Committee (EHRAC). The move was made mainly due to Martinez’s involvment in a officer involved shooting incident in 2010.
This point became an issue soon after the EHRAC had their first meeting on July 28. Over the next several weeks, public comment was made at city council meetings asking that the appointment of Martinez be reconsidered.
The incident in question was the death of Lejoy Grissom, a black man who was shot and killed by Martinez on April 25, 2010 after he was pulled over on suspicion of robbing an electronics store, which he had done that day.
According to the final report done on the incident by the Los Angeles Times — an article reporting that Grissom’s family was awarded $8.8 million from the city in relation to the incident — Grissom was pulled over on a felony traffic stop, meaning guns were trained on his vehicle.
The report indicates that officers then asked Grissom out of his car, and was promptly shot by Martinez “moments after” exiting the vehicle, according to one of the lawyers for Grissom’s children in the wrongful death case.
However, the Culver City Police Officers’ Association argued that Grissom was in fact armed, citing a “small caliber handgun that was recovered from his shoe,” which is confirmed by the LA Times Homicide Report. Witnesses noted that in the robbery conducted earlier, Grissom had “brandished a chrome handgun and fled the location with merchandise from the store.”
The LA Times article contradicts this however, with one of the lawyers working with the Grissom family reporting that Grissom had been found to be unarmed.
The CCPOA also alluded to the fact that Grissom had been involved in eight robberies including the one that happened in Culver City just minutes before the shooting, which they said was corroborated by victims.
The CCPOA continues by arguing that witnesses at the scene had told investigators that they had seen him reach his hand towards his waistband before the shooting occured. The LA Times article mentioned that the other officers at the scene testified that Grissom was facing the officers and had nothing in his hands when he was shot, but did not mention any motion of hands. Additionally, an initial witness also contradicted this account, saying Grissom had his hands up.
“He had his hands up the whole time, fingers open,” she told the LA Times following the incident. “There was no way he was reaching for anything.”
“He absolutely did not move his hands. The only time he moved was when he reverberated from the bullets.”
Because of the contentious nature of the situation, the conversation by councilmembers was not entirely honed on the incident itself. Mayor Goran Eriksson was concerned more about the logistical elements of the move.
He argued that by circumventing the choice of the union for their representative, there would be no real connection to the union itself.
Eriksson believed that a representative of that nature would not be as productive because that representative would only be a representative of themselves, and would not serve as a proper reflection of the feelings of the police officers as a whole.
However, that did not outweigh the general feeling amongst all the councilmembers, Eriksson included, that whether or not Martinez did use excessive force in the death was irrelevant to the situation. It was proven clear to the council that Martinez’s mere presence on the board when he was involved in a officer involved sh ooting of a black man was distracting from the overall goal of the subcommittee, and cast a shadow of doubt over it’s legitimacy, whether or not excessive force was actually called upon in the case or not.
Councilmember Daniel Lee argued that there are plenty of other police officers who could serve the same role without bringing the controversy along with them.
Potential changes to the way that the EHRAC is constructed were also considered in the same conversation. The EHRAC recommended ammending the subcommitte’s bylaws that would allow prospective labor representative members to submit an application for the position, as opposed to simply being elected by the labor organizations they represent.
A similar change in the labor representative election process was also considered for the Financial Advisory Committee, but the council decided to hold off on making a decision on that because the conversation that night had been focused on the EHRAC.
The removal of Martinez as the EHRAC labor representative and the amendment to the bylaws both passed with a unanimous vote.