The family of Brian Newt Beaird, an eight-year National Guard veteran described by friends as suffering from schizophrenia, wants to know why police gunned him down in a barrage of 20 bullets — as the man’s own horrified father watched on live TV.
The 51-year-old Oceanside, Calif., man led cops on a wild chase in in his silver Corvette Friday evening, driving erratically at high speed through South Los Angeles streets. In Los Angeles, a city where freeways and cars are at the center of daily existence, such police chases are frequent, and are a staple of local TV news coverage, with stations breaking into any sort of programming to deliver viewers the live, high-speed drama.
See news video of Friday’s chase, below. A still image from the end of the chase is above.
But TV stations know there is always a risk that the chases will end in all-too-real bloodshed. That’s what happened in this case — but no one is quite sure why Beaird had to die. He was unarmed, had his hands up and was walking away from police when officers opened fire.
Beaird died at a nearby hospital less than an hour later.
"What is in the officer's mind is what we try to determine," L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said. "They make split-second decisions based on the information that they have at the moment."
A local TV station reported that police may have commenced their lethal gunfire when one officer misunderstood a non-lethal beanbag round fired by another cop to be a shot coming from Beaird.
Gilbert Vasquez, described as a lifelong friend of Beaird, said that due to Beaird’s mental illness, he probably panicked when he saw police behind him.
“He heard voices so he probably saw the helicopter lights, the lights of the cops pursuing him,” Vasquez told NBC Los Angeles. “It scared the hell out of him.”
Beaird seemed perplexed during the chase, according to his brother.
“Why are they after me -- I didn't do anything?” John Beaird quoted his brother saying to family members on the phone during the chase.
“We're pretty angry,” said John Beaird. “This could have been handled differently. He was scared. I hope that if these people did act inappropriately there will be justice down the line.”
"The fatal shooting of Brian was clearly unjustified, especially because Brian was unarmed at the time of the shooting and posed no immediate threat to the life of any officer or individual," said Dale Galipo, a lawyer hire by Beaird’s family.
“The circumstances of this incident are particularly egregious because Billy Beaird, who shared a markedly close relationship with his son, witnessed the fatal shooting of his son on live television," Galipo added.
Three LAPD officers involved in the shooting have been temporarily removed from active duty, pending investigation into the shooting, Beck said.