Police are investigating what exactly happened. One theory favored by law enforcement is that perhaps the man held the brush under his shirt to prompt officers to shoot at him ("suicide by cop. " A Harvard Medical School study in 1998 looked officer shootings in Los Angeles County over a 10-year-period. It found that “suicide-by-cop” incidents accounted for 11 percent of the shootings and 13 percent of the fatal shootings.) Some witness say they heard the man tell officers he had a gun. Others say the man was shot as he dropped the brush and attempted to raise his hands in surrender.
Police were responding to a 911 call from Mr. Coppin’s mother reporting "domestic abuse" On the call, a man was apparently overheard threatening to kill her saying “I have a gun.”
Andre Sanchez, 17, said he saw from the hallway that the officers inside were talking to Mr. Coppin, who was in a bedroom possibly with a knife in his hand. Coppin then apparently climbed out a window and confronted more officers outside the building. Shots were fired and Mr. Coppin fell to the ground. Coppin was handcuffed and taken to Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, where he was pronounced dead. Two other bystanders say that they saw that Coppin was armed only with a hair brush.
Psychiatric workers had been at the apartment earlier that day but Mr. Coppin was gone. Coppin returned after the workers left.
As many as 150 people protested the shooting as police brutality. Thesurrounding blocks were roped off as dozens of police officers, detectives and community affairs officers arrived to investigate the shooting. City Councilman Albert Vann was present after the shooting.
One witness claims that an officer told Mr. Coppin to put up his hands. Coppin complied and at the same time dropped the hairbrush. Contemporaneously with the dropping of the brush, police opened fire. Another witness, Precious Blood, 16, said she heard 10 shots. She thought most of the shots came from one officer. Another officer yelled: “Stop, stop, stop shooting — he’s down,” she said. At least one law enforcement official said that Mr. Coppin charged toward the officers and refused orders to stop. The investigation continues.