Two Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man after ordering him to stop on his bicycle, the latest police shooting to rock the region in recent months.
Family members identified the 29-year-old as Dijon Kizzee, 29, CBSLos Angeles reported. Officers shot him on Monday afternoon, after they tried to stop him for allegedly violating vehicle codes.
Kizzee’s body was left in the streets for hours, sparking a large demonstration of angry residents and activists demanding accountability for a sheriff’s agency with a legacy of controversial killings, brutality cases and corruption scandals.
The sheriff’s lieutenant Brandon Dean said two deputies from the South Los Angeles station had been driving in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Westmont when they saw a man riding his bicycle in violation of vehicle codes, according to the Los Angeles Times. It was not known which codes the man allegedly broke, Dean said.
When deputies tried to stop the man he dropped his bike and ran, with deputies in pursuit, according to Dean. Deputies again tried to make contact with the man, Dean said. According to the department, the man then punched a deputy, though police have not provided any evidence to substantiate this claim. . The man dropped a bundle of clothes and the deputies spotted a black handgun in the bundle, at which point both opened fire, Dean said.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said no deputies were injured.
Following the shooting, more than 100 people marched to a sheriff’s station on Imperial Highway. Some said they didn’t think the shooting was justified while others chanted “Say his name” and “No justice, no peace”, the LA Times reported.
Arlander Givens, 68, who lives in the neighborhood, questioned why deputies fired at a man who, according to the sheriff’s official, was not holding a weapon.
“If he reached down to grab it, that’s different,” Givens told the Times. “But if it’s on the ground, why shoot? That means he was unarmed.”
Protesters also criticized the department for handcuffing the man after shooting him and leaving his body in the street for hours.
The Los Angeles county sheriff’s department said multiple independent investigations had begun at the scene, as is customary when police kill civilians.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Dean said investigators had not yet interviewed witnesses or reviewed any surveillance or cellphone video.
“Give us time to conduct our investigation,” he said. “We will get all of the facts of this case and eventually present them.”
Even as police agencies across California have mandated body-worn cameras in recent years, LA sheriff has been slow to adopt the technology. The Los Angeles county board of supervisors approved a year of funding for the department’s body-camera program in a vote on Tuesday.
Monday’s killing comes two months after the sheriff’s department fatally shot Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard shot five times in the back by deputies with the sheriff’s Compton station. That division of the department, also located in South LA, has been mired in scandals this summer. A deputy who worked in Compton for five years has alleged that the station was home to a gang of violent deputies with a record of violating civilians’ civil rights and using excessive force.
The department has faced numerous allegations of gang membership and affiliations with white supremacist groups over the years. It has also been repeatedly accused of intimidating victims’ families who speak out and organize protests. Officials have recently faced intense scrutiny for allegedly fabricating stories and withholding evidence and selectively releasing misleading information about the civilians they kill. Sheriff Villanueva’s chief of staff was reassigned in July after he wrote on social media that Guardado “chose his fate”.
On Tuesday, Guardado’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department and two deputies who shot the teenager, alleging that the killing may have been linked to gang activity within the agency.
The LA sheriff’s department is the largest county police agency in the US, with 9,000 officers who patrol nearly 200 different cities and towns across southern California.
Unlike city police departments that have some civilian oversight through mayors and councilmembers, sheriffs in the US are elected, and there are no mechanisms to hold them accountable.
This week, California lawmakers failed to pass a slate of police reform bills proposed in the wake of George Floyd protests, though they did approve one bill meant to clarify the process for how counties can create oversight commissions for sheriffs.