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.