An LAPD officer who was recorded on body-camera video telling colleagues “happy hunting” before SWAT officers shot and killed a man last May has received a two-day suspension following an internal investigation, according to LAPD disciplinary records.
The newly released records obtained by the Los Angeles Times identified the officer by his rank—police officer 3—but don’t name him, due to state privacy laws.
The SWAT officer made the remark while preparing with other officers to surround a man named Leron James, who was armed with a handgun and had barricaded himself inside an apartment building. Police said the 54-year-old man fired down from a window and the officers returned fire, killing him.
Department officials have said that the remark was caught on the body camera of another officer and was discovered during a subsequent review of video from the incident. The officer was immediately removed from the field after the remark was discovered.
The episode was seized on by department critics, who said it reflected a culture of brutality and callousness within SWAT, the LA Times reported.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore at the time said the remark “constitutes an inappropriate comment or inappropriate remark, which is an administrative count of misconduct.”
Although he was disturbed by the inappropriate comment, Moore said that the unit’s members have consistently shown restraint and skill while handling difficult and dangerous situations.
Moore later ordered a 10-year review of the unit’s operations to determine whether there were “possible problems or patterns” in the use of force by its members.
The report, published in July 2022, found that between 2012 and 2022, 92 percent, or 1,245 of the 1,350 SWAT deployments, were resolved without the use of force.
Deputy Chief Al Labrada, the commanding officer for operations in LA’s Central Bureau, said the report showed no patterns of behavior in which officers were continuously engaging in deadly force.
Amid a rise in violent crime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles is scrambling to hire more police. The LAPD expects 600 officers to leave next year. The rise of anti-police sentiment, public scrutiny, and negative perceptions of law enforcement on social media are some of contributing factors that caused many officers to quit or retire early.
Jill McLaughlin contributed to this report.