Sheriff's Department Now Says Dijon Kizzee Had Picked Up Gun Before Shooting. Family Disputes Account

Dijon Kizzee. (Courtesy of the Kizzee family)

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

After initially saying Dijon Kizzee had "made a motion" towards a gun he had dropped on the ground, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department today said he had picked up the gun when two deputies shot and killed him on Aug. 31.

That account was vigorously disputed by Kizzee family spokesman Najee Ali, who called the sheriff "a liar." Ali said "there's no tape or evidence" to show Kizzee had picked up the gun.

The new account by the sheriff's department was delivered at a press conference this afternoon.

Capt. Kent Wegener said Kizzee had been carrying a loaded Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic pistol when the deputies tried to stop him for riding his bicycle on the wrong side of the street.

Wegener played a video that showed Kizzee dropping his bike and running away when the deputies tried to stop him.

He also replayed the surveillance video that had been previously seen that shows Kizzee struggling with a deputy, and then deputies shooting him. The video is partially obscured by a wall and fence. A gun is not visible.

The deputies fired a total of 19 times, Wegener said, adding that Kizzee sustained "several wounds to the chest, both arms and one wound to the back, as well as a grazing wound to his head." He said he could not provide more precise information about Kizzee's wounds, because the coroner has not completed his report.

Wegener said detectives learned the crucial new detail about the gun after interviewing the two deputies — one of whom refused to answer questions for more than 10 days. While the department can compel statements in administrative investigations, that information could not be used if a criminal case was pursued. Law enforcement officials, like anyone under investigation, can decline to speak to investigators.

According to Wegener, both deputies said Kizzee bent over, picked up the gun and was holding it in his hand when they opened fire.

In response to a question, Sheriff Alex Villanueva denied there was a discrepancy between the two versions of the story.

He said the original narrative that Kizzee had "made a motion" towards the gun came from the deputies' initial basic accounts in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

That preliminary account "is always subject to change, just like any investigation," the sheriff said.

Villanueva criticized some of the initial reactions to the shooting.

"Five minutes after the shooting, somebody announced that he was shot 20 times in the back," he said. "And then you had a lot of people just piling on that it was an execution, assassination, he was murdered, he was running away and shot — the facts do not support any of that."

Ali, the Kizzee family spokesman, said the sheriff department's revised account was not credible.

"Dijon may have indeed had a weapon, but there's a difference between having a weapon in your possession and having a weapon pointed at sheriff's deputies," Ali said.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.