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The homeless man who was fatally shot by LAPD officers Sunday was generally a good man, but his behavior was erratic, a skid row community leader told The Hollywood Reporter.
Union Rescue Mission CEO Rev. Andy Bales told THR he’d had many encounters with the man known as “Africa” before his tragic death this weekend. According to Bales, Africa regularly pitched a tent right in front of Bales’ shelter.
On one occasion, Bales said he was leaving the shelter parking lot and Africa’s tent was blocking the exit. Bales said he asked Africa if he wouldn’t mind moving it out of the way, and Africa was happy to oblige.
Bales said Africa also frequently helped clean the sidewalk in front of the shelter.
But the man wasn’t always cheerful. Bales mentioned another time when he witnessed Africa exiting his tent and rudely knocking stuff out of another person’s hand for no apparent reason. Bales also cited an instance when Africa assaulted one of his employees for making a rude comment.
“There were many sides to him,” Bales said.
But when it came to pointing fingers at who’s to blame, the LAPD or the victim, Bales wasn’t so sure. “This tragic death reflects more on this environment than it does on the LAPD or this gentleman,” he said. “People are forced to live in untenable conditions on skid row and the LAPD is asked to keep the peace. Unfortunately, I don’t think these tragedies will end until we vanquish the terror that is skid row.”
Bales blames much of skid row’s problems on other parts of Los Angeles that, he said, ship their needy to skid row “not to live but to die.” Bales wants to regionalize services to share the burden of caring for the homeless. “We’re overwhelmed here,” he said.
But he did offer a temporary solution to the violence: “If it were up to me, I would not send armed people to take down an unarmed man.” Bales suggested having armed police backup on hand for when situations get out of control.
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