WASHINGTON - A D.C. charter school is mourning the death of a beloved teacher who died after being taken into custody by Los Angeles police over winter break.
In a statement shared on the Digital Pioneers Academy website, the school's founder Mashea Ashton said the school community is "deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Keenan Anderson."
The 10th-grade English teacher passed away on Jan. 3 while he was home vising family in Los Angeles, according to the statement.
Ashton described Anderson as a deeply committed educator and father of a 6-year-old son. She called the details of his death both "disturbing" and "tragic."
"He suffered cardiac arrest after being forcibly restrained and repeatedly tased by police following a traffic accident," the letter states. "Keenan is the third person killed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2023, and we’re 12 days into the new year."
According to FOX 11 LA, an investigation into Anderson's death is underway by the Los Angeles Police Department.
LAPD officials said that on Jan. 3 an officer was flagged down for a car crash that happened near Venice and Lincoln Boulevards just before 3:40 p.m. The officer said when he arrived at the scene, Anderson was acting erratically and that he observed him running in the middle of the street.
Witnesses also told the LAPD Anderson caused the crash.
The officer spoke with Anderson and called in additional units for a DUI investigation.
LAPD officials said as more units arrived, Anderson ran away from the scene, leading to a foot chase on the eastbound lanes of Venice Blvd. A short time later, officers contacted Anderson who they say began to resist, which led to the use of force.
"Officers struggled with Anderson for several minutes, utilizing a TASER, bodyweight, firm grips, and joint locks to overcome resistance," the LAPD said in a written press release.
Anderson was handcuffed at the scene and "hobbled at the ankles." After being taken into custody, firefighters with the Los Angeles Fire Department were called to the scene, and rendered medical aid after a TASER was deployed. He was taken to a Santa Monica hospital where he went into cardiac arrest and died, authorities said.
An LAPD officer was hurt in the incident and received minor abrasions to his hands.
Anderson is the third member of the Digital Pioneers Academy school community to fall victim to violence in the past 65 days, Ashton said. Two high school students - 14-year-old Antione Manning and 15-year-old Jakhi Snider - died during separate incidents of gun violence last fall.
"Our community is grieving," Ashton said in the statement. "But we’re also angry. Angry that, once again, a known, loved, and respected member of our community is no longer with us. Angry that another talented, beautiful Black soul is gone too soon."
FOX 5 spoke with a use-of-force expert who said officers are trained about the dangers of direct tasers to an area near the heart.
The coroner’s office is continuing an investigation to determine the cause of death.
Anderson remembered as a father and educator
Loved ones remember Anderson as an English teacher and a father to a 6-year-old.
His cousin, Patrisse Cullors, is a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
She paid tribute to her cousin on social media writing, "This is my cousin Keenan Anderson. He was killed by the LAPD in Venice on January 3, 2023. My cousin was an educator and worked with high school-aged children. He was an English teacher."
She continued to write, "Keenan deserves to be alive right now, his child deserves to be raised by his father. Keenan we will fight for you and all of our loved ones impacted by state violence."
His family has yet to comment on the LAPD's recollection of events.
Black Lives Matter LA said so far in 2023, the LAPD has murdered three people, including at least two Black men, including Anderson and Takar Smith.
In response to the deaths, BLM Los Angeles is calling for the resignation of LAPD Chief Moore.
After the deadly incident, LA Mayor Karen Bass issued the following statement:
"I have grave concerns about the deeply disturbing tapes that were released today. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones who are mourning the loss of Takar Smith, Keenan Anderson and Oscar Sanchez.
Full investigations are underway, and I pledge that the City's investigations into these deaths will be transparent and will reflect the values of Los Angeles. I will ensure that the City’s investigations will drive only toward truth and accountability. Furthermore, the officers involved must be placed on immediate leave.
No matter what these investigations determine, however, the need for urgent change is clear. We must reduce the use of force overall, and I have absolutely no tolerance for excessive force. We must also lead our city forward – finally – on the mental health crisis that has been allowed to grow, fester and cause so much harm to individual Angelenos, their families and our communities.
Especially as a former health care professional, I am deeply troubled that mental health experts were not called in, even when there was a documented history of past mental health crisis. When there is no immediate risk to others, law enforcement must not be the first responder when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. I believe officers and Angelenos agree on this.
Tragically, this is a national crisis, and in reviewing a sample of incidents in which people died during encounters with police as part of my legislative work in Congress, my office found that a third or more of the people involved were experiencing a mental health crisis."It is time that proven reforms are universally implemented and accelerated within LAPD. Los Angeles must lead nationally on mental health and use of force reform.
I appreciate Chief Moore’s decision to release the footage today. Policy allows for up to 45 days before footage of use of force incidents is released, but I believe the Los Angeles Police Department must be as transparent as possible, as expeditiously as possible."Once again, my heart breaks for the families and loved ones who are experiencing such a tragic loss."
FOX 11 LA contributed to this report.