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Criminal Justice

David Ordaz, Jr. Was Fatally Shot By Sheriff’s Deputies In Front Of His Family. Now They’re Filing A Federal Lawsuit

David Ordaz, Jr's sister, Hilda Pedroza, stands in front of flight of stairs outside a downtown LA courthouse at a press conference. She is wearing an orange shirt with a large button with a depiction of Ordaz and is pointing to a painting of the same depiction of Ordaz, who was killed by Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputies on March 14, 2021.
David Ordaz, Jr.'s sister, Hilda Pedroza (R), spoke at a press conference on Thursday, July 29, 2021. She points to a picture of Ordaz, who was killed by Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputies on March 14.
(Robert Garrova
/
LAist)
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Update:
  • After his department released an edited version of the body cam footage Friday evening, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement: "I want to clearly state I have grave concerns regarding this deputy involved shooting." We will have more on this story shortly.

The family of a man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies during a mental health crisis has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county alleging wrongful death.

On March 14, the family of David Ordaz, Jr., 34, family called the sheriff’s department for help. They were afraid he might take his own life.

But instead, Ordaz was killed by sheriff’s deputies on the sidewalk in front of his family’s East L.A. home. Several family members witnessed the shooting, including his older sister, Gabriela Hernandez.

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“We never thought that making that call for help would end up in my brother’s death at the hands of law enforcement,” Hernandez said Thursday at a press conference in downtown L.A. announcing the lawsuit.

The department said deputies opened fire when Ordaz charged at them with a knife.

Two posters honoring David Ordaz Jr. were displayed outside the federal courthouse Thursday. The left poster features a picture of Ordaz, Jr. with text that reads "Justice for David Ordaz, Jr." The poster on the right shows Ordaz standing and has a wreath of flowers around it.
Two posters honoring David Ordaz Jr. were displayed outside the federal courthouse Thursday.
(Robert Garrova / LAist )

(Warning: link below goes to a video depicting acts of violence, including the fatal shooting of Ordaz.)

The family’s lawyers released a video recorded by a neighbor that shows deputies firing nonlethal rounds at Ordaz, causing him to stumble and turn away. The deputies then fire live rounds at him.

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Ordaz’s daughter, Emily Ordaz, said nothing excuses what happened to her dad and she’s calling for solutions.

“We want and need LA County and its Sheriff's Department to fix how they deal with mental health crises,” she said.

The lawsuit names four deputies — Remin Pineda, Edwin Navarrete, Jaime Romero, and Nathaniel Trujillo — who were on scene and accuses them of being “negligent,” “careless” and “using unjustifiable lethal force.”

“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Mr. Ordaz,” the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said in an emailed statement. The statement added that, once complete, the department’s investigation will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office, which will “determine the legality of the shooting.” The department said deputy body-worn camera footage will be released “in the near future.”

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The suit also seeks damages for emotional distress suffered by several family members who witnessed the shooting.

“In seeing their son, their brother, their uncle shot and killed before their very eyes, they suffered severe emotional distress and that’s another cause for action,” Ordaz family attorney Federico Sayre said.

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Robert Garrova is reporting on the intersection of mental health and law enforcement.
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