ACLU Says Graphic Video Of Man Fatally Shot By Deputies Is 'Chilling'
The family of a 23-year-old man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies have released a new graphic cellphone video of the struggle, and are urging authorities to reopen the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU), also urging the case to be re-investigated, said the video is "chilling," according to the L.A. Times.
In May 2014, two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies pulled over 23-year-old Noel Aguilar over as he was riding his bicycle in Long Beach. Aguilar wrestled away from them, and was pursued on foot before the deputies caught up with him, and struggled to handcuff him. At the time, the deputies claimed Aguilar was armed with a gun, so they shot and killed him in what they deemed an alleged struggle by Aguilar to reach for their own weapons.
But a video released by lawyers for the Aguilar family last week appears to show the deputies disarming Aguilar before shooting and killing him at point-blank range, prompting them to urge L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to reopen the case. Lacey's office had previously rejected criminal charges against the deputies for Aguilar's death.
In the video, we see two deputies attempting to handcuff Aguilar. "You fucking move, I'm going to kill you, bitch," one of the officers is heard saying. The video appears to show one of the deputies taking something from Aguilar and tucking it into his waistband. As Aguilar attempts to break free, one of the deputies shoots at Aguilar and winds up hitting his partner instead.
Aguilar continues to wrestle with the deputies, and says, "I didn't shoot nobody," before both deputies shoot him at point-blank range. The video captures Aguilar's final moments, as we hear him cry out, "I'm dying," as the deputies continue to pin him down, and struggle with Aguilar, even after he's shot—according to ABC 7, the DA's investigation found that Aguilar had been under the influence of methamphetamine. The autopsy confirmed he was shot three times in the back.
Aguilar family attorney Humberto Guizar told ABC 7 that the shooting was murder. "You don't shoot a person with their hands in front of them if you don't see a gun in their hand."
Angel Carrazco Jr., another attorney for the Aguilars, has filed a federal civil lawsuit on behalf of the family, and is handing the fresh evidence over to the Department of Justice, FBI, U.S. Attorney's office and the L.A. County District Attorney's office with the hopes of bringing criminal charges against the deputies.
Carrazco told the Times the actions by the deputies were "a blatant execution" because Aguilar was not a lethal threat; he'd already been disarmed.
"The first shot is not justified because the victim is very vulnerable, he's on his side," Carrazco told the OC Weekly. "The other three shots from the back, every single one of those is unjustified. For me, it seems like it's murder."
ACLU Executive Director Hector Villagra also called on Lacey to take another look at the case, according to the Times.
It's not just the shooting itself that raises questions about the force used by the deputies, but their behavior afterward. ACLU staff attorney Catherine Wagner told the OC Weekly, "After shooting Mr. Aguilar multiple times, the officers, rather than attempting to resuscitate him or keep him alive, they appeared to have just laid on top of him in a way that would ensure further harm."
Aguilar's mother Elvia Marina Aguilar, told KPCC, "I want them to pay for taking my son's life,"
Whether that will happen remains to be seen. Both deputies are back in the field, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Department, which said an internal affairs investigation has been completed, and a force review committee will decide next month whether there were any policy, tactical, supervisory or training violations.
As for reopening a criminal investigation, L.A. County District Attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robinson told OC Weekly her office needs a copy of the video before they can even consider reopening the case. "When we receive any new evidence we will review it," Robinson said.