The real Charley Robinet is in France apparently living a totally normal life and totally unaware his identity had been stolen years and years ago —Axel Cruau, consul general for France in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — U.S. immigration authorities said Wednesday they were forced by Supreme Court precedent to release a foreigner later shot to death by police on Los Angeles' Skid Row after he served prison time for bank robbery because no country would take him.
France issued travel documents for a man identified as Charley Saturmin Robinet but rescinded them in June 2013 after determining it was an assumed name and that the man was really from Cameroon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.
ICE, which issued a deportation order in April 2013, said Cameroon consular officials failed to respond to repeated requests for travel documents after France spurned him.
The man told authorities he was from Cameroon and gave a different name — Keunang — after France rejected him, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration authorities cannot detain people indefinitely just because no country will take them. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the government would need a special reason to keep someone in custody after six months if deportation seemed unlikely in "the reasonably foreseeable future."
"ICE makes every possible effort to remove all individuals with final orders of removal within a reasonable period," the agency said. "Per the Supreme Court ruling, after 180 days of detention, if the actual removal cannot occur within the reasonably foreseeable future, ICE must release the individual.
ICE said the man regularly reported to immigration officials as required by terms of his release. He was next scheduled to report on Thursday.
Robinet, as he was known to authorities, was in immigration custody in September 2013 when a federal judge in California ordered him to a halfway house. The man had no place to stay and no permanent address.
The man had served roughly 13 years in prison and spent six months in the halfway house before he was released in May 2014, said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not comment on the man's immigration history.
The confrontation that led to the man's death was recorded on a bystander's cellphone and viewed millions of times online. Authorities said the man tried to grab a rookie officer's gun before three other officers shot him.
A law enforcement official identified the man police shot Sunday as Robinet, 39. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
But Axel Cruau, the consul general for France in Los Angeles, said the man stole the identity of a French citizen and was living in the United States under an assumed name. He had applied for a French passport in the late 1990s to come to the United States to pursue an acting career.
"The real Charley Robinet is in France apparently living a totally normal life and totally unaware his identity had been stolen years and years ago," Cruau said.
Using that name, the man was identified as a French national in 2000 when he was convicted of robbing a Wells Fargo branch and pistol-whipping an employee in an effort to pay for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
That arrest spurred the consulate to provide the man with support, but as he was nearing his release from prison in 2013, officials found another Robinet in France with the same birthdate and discovered the one in the U.S. was an impostor, Cruau said.
It was not clear if the man's true nationality was yet known.
While in federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, the bank robber known as Robinet was assigned to the mental health unit, and federal officials said medical staff determined he had "a mental disease or defect" that required treatment in a psychiatric hospital, documents show.
Under the terms of the man's release, he was required to provide reports to his probation officer each month, Deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Cordova said. When he failed to do so in November, December and January, a federal warrant was issued Jan. 9.
U.S. probation officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday, and it was unclear what efforts they made to find the man.
Leaders at Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row said he had been living on the sidewalk outside their shelter for six to eight months.
Though multiple videos and two officer-worn cameras captured the shooting, exactly what happened is unclear.
Video showed the homeless man reaching toward a rookie officer's waistband, police Chief Charlie Beck said. The officer's gun was later found partly cocked and jammed with a round of ammunition in the chamber and another in the ejection port, indicating a struggle for the weapon, the chief said.
Beck said the officers had arrived to investigate a robbery report and the man refused to obey their commands and became combative.
The four officers are on paid leave, which is customary in such shootings.
Associated Press writers Alicia Caldwell in Washington, D.C., and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and contributed to this report. Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams .