LAPD chief wants to fire police detective who shot homeless veteran on Skid Row while off-duty, intoxicated

ByLisa Bartley via KABC logo
Friday, January 31, 2020
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LAPD Chief Michel Moore tells Eyewitness News he wants to fire the veteran LAPD detective who shot a homeless military veteran while off-duty during a confrontation on Skid Row last year.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore told Eyewitness News he wants to fire the longtime LAPD detective who shot a homeless military veteran while off-duty during a confrontation on Skid Row last year.

"I have directed the involved detective to what is called a trial board, an administrative tribunal for removal," Moore said in an interview with Eyewitness News.

Detective Michael Johnson is a narcotics detective and supervisor out of the LAPD's 77th Division.

LAPD investigators submitted a detailed report on the case to Moore, tracing Johnson's route in the hours before the shooting. The report says Johnson began drinking at a promotion party at a bar in downtown L.A. with co-workers. He left the first bar for a second bar, consumed more alcohol, and left around 2 a.m.

Johnson told investigators he lost track of his friends and decided to walk back to a condo he'd rented. He stopped by the LAPD's Central Station to use the restroom. Cameras recorded some of Johnson's movements including him walking eastbound on 6th Street and talking to someone who was "holding a pink umbrella" for four minutes, before Michael Wise emerges from behind a tent. It was a little after three in the morning.

Wise is a homeless former U.S. Marine who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has more recently been living on Skid Row.

Johnson told investigators Wise asked him for money. Johnson says he refused, and claims that's when Wise pulled a gun out of his waistband.

Johnson says he attempted to draw his off-duty weapon, and told Wise, "Hey, I'm a cop. Drop the gun, drop the gun."

According to the report, Johnson has no memory of "completing the act of drawing it from its holster" and has no memory of firing the gun.

Wise told Eyewitness News last year that Johnson was the aggressor that night and that Johnson tried to grab his friend's arm and pull her away. Wise says that's when he stepped in to help and Johnson shot Wise in the struggle.

"He had enough space to pull a gun out for me to be able to see down the rifling of it, down the rifling ... is the spirals inside," Wise said in March of last year.

Surveillance video examined by LAPD investigators is not clear, but apparently captures Wise punching Johnson for about 90 seconds and then hitting him with a steel trash can.

"Muscle memory kicks in," Wise told Eyewitness News. "I was shot, I was hurt."

According to the LAPD report, investigators found no evidence that Wise had a gun. The report states Johnson's blood alcohol level was .329, more than four times the legal limit to drive.

Moore reviewed the report and found Johnson to be "out of policy" in three areas: tactics, drawing/exhibiting a weapon, and the lethal use of force.

"This poor decision making, in conjunction with Detective (redacted)'s unreliable memory and lack of evidence that Wise was armed with a firearm, led me to determine that the drawing of (redacted) pistol was unreasonable," wrote Moore in the report.

The Los Angeles Police Commission agreed with Moore's "out of policy" findings in a unanimous vote last week.

Johnson, who is currently assigned to home, will have a chance to fight for his job at what's known as a Board of Rights panel.

Moore calls the entire incident a "tragedy."

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