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Officials identify man fatally shot on a freeway by California Highway Patrol officer

FILE - A California Highway Patrol officer stops a motorist in Anaheim, Calif., April 23, 2020. State authorities were investigating Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, after a California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed a man on a Los Angeles area freeway during a struggle over the weekend that was recorded on video. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who was fatally shot by a California Highway Patrol officer in a struggle on a freeway that was captured on video was a 34-year-old from Los Angeles, officials said Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office said Jesse Dominguez's cause of death on Sunday afternoon has not been officially determined.

Dominguez had been walking in westbound lanes of Interstate 105 in south LA County, according to the CHP. An officer tried to convince the man to get off the freeway but he refused and that led to a fight, authorities said. Dominguez was carrying a taser that he used on the officer, CHP said.

“Following the pedestrian’s use of the weapon against the officer, and in fear for his safety, the officer fired his service weapon," the statement said.

Dominguez was pronounced dead at a hospital. The CHP referred media inquiries to the state attorney general's office. Neither department has provided the officer's name or additional details about the altercation, including how many shots were fired and whether the CHP has a specific protocol to deal with someone wandering on the freeway.

A minutelong video recorded by a bystander and posted on social media begins with an officer on top of Dominguez as the two grapple in the middle of a closed stretch of freeway. It was not clear who filmed the original video.

As they struggle, a shot is fired and the officer suddenly jumps to his feet while the other man goes limp on the pavement. The officer immediately fires at least four shots at the prone man, the video shows. For the remainder of the clip, the officer keeps his gun drawn while the man lies motionless.

The state attorney general's office, which did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, is investigating the shooting in line with its policy of reviewing incidents when the deceased did not have a deadly weapon. A stun gun is not considered a lethal weapon under state law.

Dominguez's family told the Los Angeles Times that he was an aspiring actor who they believe was likely experiencing a mental health episode or drug-fueled crisis when he was killed. He had been struggling with substance abuse, a serious mental health disorder and homelessness, the newspaper reported..

His family said Dominguez had been carrying a Taser for protection after threats from other residents at the sober living facility near the highway where he had been staying, the Times reported.

“I don’t know why the officer thought to engage. If someone is walking on the freeway, something is not right. They’re either in mental health crisis or something else is happening,” Akasha Dominguez, his stepmother, told the newspaper.

Highway patrol officers aren’t required to wear body cameras, but the agency uses in-car cameras.

David Dusenbury, a retired deputy chief of police in Long Beach, California, called the video clip “extremely troubling” and said he hoped more footage exists to provide additional context.

Based on his viewing of the video, he said the shooting did not appear to be a justified use of force, in part because Dominguez was on the ground and the officer was just a few feet away when he "fires directly into the guy.”

“I don’t like what I saw, I really don’t,” Dusenbury told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Dusenbury said the officer should have had backup, at least to close the freeway, and should have waited to approach Dominguez carefully and from a distance with another patrolman.

“If they’re wandering in traffic lanes, then you’ve got to conclude that there’s something wrong with this individual,” such as intoxication or mental health issues, he said.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

___

Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed.