Originally published on September 15, 2014, at NationofChange.org
While deadlocked on whether an LAPD officer had been negligent in killing an unarmed naked man, a federal jury has rejected claims that the officer used excessive force. Based on the trajectory of the fatal bullet, the victim’s family believes the killing of Reginald Doucet, Jr. was unjustified.
On January 14, 2011, Reginald Doucet, Jr. took a taxi from a nightclub in Hollywood to his apartment in Playa Vista. Realizing he did not have enough cab fare, Doucet got into an argument with the driver. Instead of waiting for Doucet to retrieve more cash from his apartment, the cab driver and a nearby resident who heard them shouting called the police.
According to the LAPD, two officers arrived at 3:30am to find Doucet naked jumping on parked cars. At first, Doucet complied with the officers and placed his hands behind his head. As Officer Aaron Goff attempted to place handcuffs on him, Doucet broke the officer’s grip and fled.
After locating his boxer shorts, Doucet put on his underwear as Officer Goff and his partner attempted to apprehend him again. Doucet ran towards an apartment complex as the officers chased after him. Before Doucet could reach the door, Officer Goff grabbed him from behind. Doucet allegedly turned around repeatedly punching Goff in the face and head. Goff claims that after he fell to the ground Doucet grabbed the handle of his weapon and tried to steal the holstered gun.
Unable to steal the firearm, Doucet reportedly turned on Goff’s partner and knocked him to the ground. As Doucet allegedly took turns beating down the police officers, Goff rose to one knee and fired two shots at close range. The fatal bullet struck Doucet in the neck.
According to Doucet’s autopsy report, the bullet that hit his neck had been travelling in a downward trajectory, which appears to discredit Goff’s account of being on one knee when he opened fire. The report also noted that Doucet was not drunk or high on PCP at the time of his death.
Doucet was transported to a local hospital where he died as a result of his injuries. Goff was hospitalized and treated for damage to his head, jaw, knees, and arms. Goff’s partner received treatment for injuries to his ankle and face. Although they had been equipped with a taser and told Doucet was probably on drugs or mentally ill, the officers chose to use lethal force instead.
Following the incident, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck wrote, “Los Angeles Police Department officers are never trained to ‘shoot to kill,’ only to stop a deadly threat in order to keep the community and themselves safe. This isn’t a rhetorical turn-of-phrase or semantic contrivance, but a real world reality: taking a life – anyone’s life – is never our intent. It’s a tragedy when it occurs for everyone involved and for the City of Los Angeles.”
Hours before his death, Doucet posted a video to Twitter boasting, “I live for this. I could be dead right now, and I’m still doing what I’m doing.”