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Criminal Justice

DA Declines to File Criminal Charges Against LA Sheriff’s Deputies Who Killed Dijon Kizzee

A dark-skinned man sits facing the camera. He has a beard and moustache, black undershirt, and red pants.
Dijon Kizzee. (Courtesy of the Kizzee family)
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The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office Tuesday said it has declined to file criminal charges against two Sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot Dijon Kizzee, who had a handgun at the time of the shooting.

The August 2020 killing of Kizzee in the Westmont neighborhood of South L.A. came just three months after the murder of George Floyd, and sparked days of angry protests.

The deputies “reasonably believed, based on the totality of the circumstances, that force was necessary to defend against a threat of death when they initially fired their weapons,” according to a Nov. 10 memo issued by the DA’s Justice System Integrity Division.

Deputies Christian Morales and Michael Garcia initially tried to stop Kizzee for a traffic violation as he was riding his bike in the wrong direction on a residential street. He dropped the bike and fled on foot as he was holding a towel in one hand and jacket in the other, the memo says.

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When they caught up with him, Kizzee “struck Morales in the face,” according to the memo. A struggle ensued.

“The struggle caused Kizzee to drop a Ruger 9mm pistol on the ground, between him and Morales, as they stood inches apart, face to face. Kizzee bent down and picked up the pistol,” the memo states. “According to both deputies, Kizzee went to the ground but began reaching for the pistol, ignoring their commands to stop.”

Inconclusive Surveillance Video

The deputies shot Kizzee 16 times, at least five times from behind, according to a coroner’s reporter.

There is surveillance video from a nearby home of the incident, but the view is obscured by a wall.

The DA’s memo appears to raise questions about the deputies’ decision to continue firing after Kizzee fell. “There is insufficient evidence that Morales’s or Garcia’s later series of shots, after Kizzee fell to the ground, were not fired in lawful self-defense, given the deputies’ statements and lack of confirming or contradicting video evidence.”

Some use-of-force experts had raised questions about the deputies' tactics.

The memo also raises questions about the position of the gun after deputies shot Kizzee.

“Sometime after the incident, Garcia noticed the pistol had moved a few feet farther from Kizzee’s body. He assumed that an assisting deputy kicked the pistol farther away from Kizzee, for safety reasons,” it states.

In addition, the memo provides insight into the deputies’ thinking during the traffic stop. After Kizzee dropped his bike and began to run, Garcia was prepared to let him go.

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“Leave it alone. Let’s go. It is what it is,” he told Morales, according to the memo.

In Feb. 2021, Kizzee’s family filed a $35 million claim for damages against the county.

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