Protests And Questions In The Wake Of Deputy Killing Of Man In South LA

Dijon Kizzee's aunt, Sheila Jackson, listens Tuesday as speakers from the community talk at a protest of her nephew's death at the hands of Sheriff's deputies. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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The L.A. County Sheriff's Department late Tuesday released a statement saying the man who deputies fatally shot Monday night "made a motion" toward a gun he had dropped, which is why the deputies opened fire.

The killing of 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee in the South L.A. neighborhood of Westmont has sparked protests and raised questions about the decision to open fire.

The deputies were driving on Budlong Ave. when they tried to stop a man riding a bicycle for a traffic violation, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Department. Kizzee dropped his bike and ran away, it said.

Cell phone video from bystanders shows Kizzee running away from the deputies, but not what happened when they caught up to him. The department said that when the deputies reached Kizzee, he punched one of them in the face.

"After he punched the deputy, he dropped a jacket at which time a black semi-automatic handgun [fell] to the ground," the statement said, adding that the deputies opened fire after Kizzee allegedly "made a motion toward the firearm."

The department has not said how many times the deputies fired or how many bullets struck Kizzee.

Critics are sharply questioning the deputies' tactics.

"At the time they shot, he had already dropped the gun," said Black Lives Matter leader Melina Abdullah. "According to their own story, he did not have a gun when they killed him."

The Sheriff's Department "unjustly shot my nephew in cold blood," his aunt, Sheila Jackson, told us today. "He had his hands up. They're lying saying he punched the police — nowhere no how."

There is no video of the shooting, because deputies, unlike LAPD officers, don't have body cameras. That is about to change, however. The Board of Supervisors voted today to fund a body cam program; the rollout will begin next month, starting with the Lancaster, Century, Lakewood, Industry and West Hollywood stations. Supervisor Janice Hahn said the Compton, East Los Angeles and another eight stations will follow beginning in January.

A makeshift altar at the site where Dijon Kizzee was shot. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Abdullah also slammed the authorities for leaving Kizzee's body uncovered for several hours, saying his treatment betrayed a "complete lack of humanity."

The Sheriff's Department said it didn't cover the body right away because it was still conducting its investigation.

An autopsy was scheduled for today, said coroner spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.

The department said the deputies were removed from the field pending review of the incident, which is standard procedure.

A crowd gathered Monday night to protest the shooting, eventually making its way to the department's South Los Angeles Station. The department declared an unlawful assembly shortly after midnight, and the protesters left shortly thereafter. Some sprayed graffiti on the sheriff's sign outside the building before dispersing.

A group called the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police organized another protest march to the South Los Angeles Station that's underway tonight.

This is the latest in a series of controversial deputy shootings, including the killing in June of 18-year-old Andres Guardado. On Monday, Guardado's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the two deputies involved in that incident. The Board of Supervisors voted today to ask the coroner to conduct an inquest into Guardado's case, which would involve public hearings.

Chava Sanchez contributed to this story.

UPDATES:

8:10 a.m., Sept. 2: This article was updated to include the information from the Sheriff's Department statement.

This article was originally published at TK.

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