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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mistakes and miscommunication by three governments on three continents over nearly 20 years led to a homeless man known as “Africa” being on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, where he was shot by police after authorities say he became combative and appeared to reach for an officer’s weapon.

The problems began in the late 1990s when French officials gave him a passport under what turned out to be a stolen name. He came to the U.S., robbed a bank and then was convicted and imprisoned under the same false name.

U.S. immigration officials wanted to send him back to his native Cameroon but that country never responded to requests to take him. So he was released from a halfway house last May, and U.S. probation officials lost track of him in November.

It took three failed monthly check-ins for a warrant to be issued on a probation violation and it’s unclear whether anyone actually looked for him. He apparently was living the entire time on Skid Row, roughly 50 square blocks of liquor stores, warehouses, charitable missions and a few modest businesses.

Many of the estimated 1,700 people who sleep each night on the sidewalks are mentally ill, like Africa.

Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the man had no previous arrests in Los Angeles. While officers spoke to him once or twice, he gave them no reason to suspect he was wanted.

“If you’re cool and you’re quiet, and you don’t make a big fuss, you can sit out there quietly and live in your tent pretty much in peace,” said Smith. “If the feds put out a warrant for this guy, shoot, there’s no reason we’d suspect he’s in Skid Row.”

The true name of the man who was long known to authorities as Charley Saturin Robinet remained a mystery Wednesday, three days after a violent death that was captured on a bystander’s video and watched by millions.

Authorities said the man tried to grab a rookie Los Angeles police officer’s gun, prompting three other officers to shoot. Chief Charlie Beck said the officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the man refused to obey their commands and became combative.

Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego who is chairman of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., said the case points to multiple failures by government.

He criticized France for not being more diligent in investigating the man’s background before issuing a passport and U.S. authorities for not realizing he was a “fraud” before the end of his prison term and then not putting more effort into finding him once he disappeared.

“Shame on all of them,” said Nunez, whose group advocates for stricter immigration policies and enforcement.

Axel Cruau, France’s consul general in Los Angeles, said the system for checking backgrounds was vastly different when the man duped French officials.

“Let’s remember 20 years ago we didn’t have the same databases we have today, the same rules, we didn’t have biometric design, it was before 9/11,” he said.

Using the false name, the man was believed to be a French citizen in 2000 when convicted of robbing a Wells Fargo branch in Los Angeles and pistol-whipping an employee in what he told authorities was an effort to pay for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

In 2013, as he was nearing his release from a federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, French officials found the real Robinet in France, Cruau said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then determined the impostor actually was from Cameroon but said the African country ignored repeated requests for travel documents, hampering efforts to deport him.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration authorities cannot detain people indefinitely just because no country will take them. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the government would need a special reason to keep someone in custody after six months if deportation seemed unlikely in “the reasonably foreseeable future.”

“ICE makes every possible effort to remove all individuals with final orders of removal within a reasonable period,” spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. “If the actual removal cannot occur within the reasonably foreseeable future, ICE must release the individual.”

A person who said he only has one name, Bindz, and heads the consular section at the Cameroon Embassy in Washington said he couldn’t respond to questions by phone and the ambassador would have to answer in writing.

The man was in immigration custody in September 2013 when a federal judge in California ordered him to a halfway house in Los Angeles. He was released from the halfway house in May, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. His sentence included three years of supervision by federal probation officials.

The man had no place to stay and eventually found his way to Skid Row. He was required to provide reports to his probation officer each month and did so for a time, Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Cordova said. But he failed to make contact in November, December and January, and a warrant was issued Jan. 9.

Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which represents U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, declined to comment on what attempts were made to find him, citing an open investigation.

Also Wednesday, police said none of the four officers involved, whose experience ranged from rookie to 11-year department veteran, had fired their weapons while on duty before.

The officers’ names were being withheld until it was determined there was no credible threat to their safety, Smith said.

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5 thoughts on “Three Continents Later, No One Knows Homeless Man Killed By LAPD

  1. specialt757 on said:

    “…innocent people shot by homeless criminal” or not, anything is possible. The bottom line is this man came to the U.S.A. was jailed and released under a false name, he was released from a halfway house, authorities lost track of him and he was killed because he “refused to obey police commands” Excuse me but I don’t see protect and serve anywhere in the scenario. Everyone failed at his/her job pertaining to and before this incident.

    • “Everyone failed at his/her job pertaining to and before this incident”, including the person he pistol whipped while hard at work at his prior profession. (Bank robbing). That person should have put a bullet between his eyes. But, because he/she failed to do his/her job, these officers are having to deal with the mess he/she left behind.

  2. jhuf on said:

    He used a stolen ID to obtain a passport probably to hide prior criminal activity then he came to the US and initiated his primary career (robbing banks assaulting people) unfortunately for him that didn’t work out to well, and then like what happens way too often in this day when released from prison his azz wasn’t kicked out of the Country, yes like so many illegals in the US that commit crimes and aren’t expelled, so fast forward to an LA street where this could have easily been a story about half a dozen innocent people shot by homeless criminal

  3. The people behind this police state and this twisted so-called new world order could care less.
    One less afrikan to feed,clothe,educate or help become a regular employed person.
    Ironic,how he wanted to be an actor in the phony,racist,twisted world of hollyweird

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