LA County Sheriff's Deputy Is First In Nearly 20 Years To Be Charged For On-Duty Shooting

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist almost three years ago at a gas station in Norwalk.

Luke Liu was arraigned Tuesday for the death of 26-year-old Francisco Garcia, entering a plea of not guilty. The charge included a special allegation "that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm," according to a press release from the office of L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

The case against the 40-year-old Liu marks the first time in nearly 20 years that the DA has filed charges against a law enforcement official involved in an on-duty shooting.

On Feb. 24, 2016, Liu was on duty patrolling the 10900 block of Alondra Boulevard, when he spotted a car he believed to be stolen and approached the driver, later identified as Garcia, prosecutors said. They say Liu approached the driver's side door, then moved to the rear of the vehicle.

"When he returned to the driver's side door, [Garcia] began to drive away at approximately 5 mph," the DA's release said.

Prosecutors allege Liu then drew his gun, "ran alongside the car and fired seven shots at Garcia." Four bullets hit the victim, killing him. The whole incident lasted about 20 seconds, according to prosecutors, and was witnessed by civilians and partially captured on video.

"We believe the officer's use of deadly force was unjustified and unreasonable under the circumstances," Lacey said.

Judge Teresa Sullivan set Liu's bail at $1.1 million, per statutory guidelines for a voluntary manslaughter charge. He was expected to post bond after the arraignment.

If convicted, Liu would face a maximum of 21 years in state prison.

DA spokesman Ricardo Santiago said Lacey declined further comment beyond her remarks in the office's press release.

The sheriff's department issued a statement expressing its "complete confidence in the criminal justice system ... The facts will be presented and the ultimate outcome of the case will be determined in a court of law."

The statement noted that Liu was placed on administrative leave on Monday.

About 30 sheriff's deputies, including several members of the board of their union, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, sat in court as a show of support for Liu during the arraignment, held in Department 30 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown L.A. Many wore blue shirts with "ALADS" emblazoned on the front.

A union statement issued later Tuesday implied that the charge against Liu is unwarranted.

"Based on what we know, Deputy Liu's in-the-moment actions were justifiable given his interaction with a suspect who, while under the influence of methamphetamine and driving a stolen car, disobeyed lawful orders and struck Deputy Liu while speeding away," the statement said. It noted that after the shooting, Liu "immediately administered CPR to the suspect."

The union said Liu "has been honorably serving as a deputy for 11 years and has had no prior disciplinary issues," adding that he "has received commendations including a life-saving award."

Frank Stoltze and Ryan Fonseca contributed to this story.

UPDATES:

5:44 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the sheriff's department.

12:08 p.m.: This article was updated with additional reporting from the arraignment.

3:05 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the ALADS statement.

This article was originally published at 11:28 a.m.


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