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Man's Identity Questioned In LAPD Skid Row Shooting

Protesters gather in front of the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters Tuesday, to express anger over the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man Sunday.
David McNew
Getty Images
Protesters gather in front of the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters Tuesday, to express anger over the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man Sunday.

New details have emerged in the case of a homeless man who was killed by Los Angeles police Sunday, as officials say he was the subject of a federal warrant related to violating probation. There's also word that he lived under a stolen identity; for now, his true name is a mystery.

A protest was held Tuesday over the man's killing, with demonstrators complaining that police overreacted when they shot and killed the man while he was on the ground, struggling with several officers. Police say he tried to grab an officer's gun.

Member station KPCC says it "has found evidence the man, who used the last name Robinet, had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration officials after serving time in prison for armed robbery."

The man was calling himself Charley Saturmin Robinet when he was released from ICE custody and sent to a halfway house. He was believed to be French — but as KPCC notes, the French consulate concluded that the man was not actually a citizen of France. On Skid Row, many people knew him by the name "Africa."

Authorities announced Tuesday that the man had been wanted for breaking the terms of his probation for the robbery of a Wells Fargo bank in California, back in 2000.

From Los Angeles, Danielle Karson reports for our Newscast unit:

"LAPD identified the man as 39-year-old Charley Robinet. Except that wasn't his real name. He served more than a dozen years in jail on bank robbery charges, and spent six months in a halfway house before being released.

"Meanwhile, the French Consulate realized the homeless man stole the name. Officials found another Robinet in France with the same birthdate, making the one in the U.S. an imposter.

The consul general says, 'The real Charley Robinet is in France and apparently totally unaware his identity had been stolen years ago.'

"Foreign nationals are usually deported after serving jail time in the U.S. But in this case, France wouldn't take the man, since he wasn't really French."

Former assistant U.S. attorney Cheryl O'Connor tells KPCC that when the man who used the name Robinet admitted to robbing the bank in 2000, he said he needed the money to pay for acting lessons.

O'Connor described the robbery, saying "Robinet" pistol-whipped a teller and then fled with an accomplice, leading police on a high-speed car chase. He was eventually apprehended after their getaway car ran over spike strips.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.