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Criminal Justice

LA Sheriff’s Deputy Kills Man After Mistaking COVID Mask for Gun During Pursuit; Family Sues

Dana Mitchell Young, a man who was fatally shot by a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy, poses with his mother. They are both smiling.
Dana Mitchell Young was fatally shot by an L.A. sheriff's deputy in October, 2020 when the deputy mistook a black COVID 19 mask he was holding for a gun. He is seen here with his mother.
(Courtesy Essie Justice Group)
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The family of a man fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in South L.A. last October filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Thursday, alleging the deputy acted “recklessly” and with “deliberate indifference.”

The deputy who fired the shot believed the man was holding a gun. He was actually holding a black COVID-style mask.

Dana Mitchell Young Jr. had allegedly kidnapped a woman at gunpoint at around 3:30 a.m. She escaped, and after deputies caught Young following a short pursuit, deputy Kevin Walker opened fire from six feet away, according to a statement from the sheriff’s department.

Young, 47, died at the scene near the corner of 108th and Vermont Ave. He was Black and the father of five children.

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“The use of deadly force against Mr. Young was excessive and objectively unreasonable under the circumstances, particularly considering that Mr. Young did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone at the time of the shooting,” the lawsuit states.

Deputy Has Ties To Another Case

This is not the first lawsuit that accuses Walker of excessive force.

Another suit accuses him and six other deputies of repeatedly punching, choking and tasering Christopher Bailey, 37, in an alleged unprovoked attack during a traffic stop five months before the shooting. The incident, which occurred around 2 a.m., dislodged one of Bailey’s eyeballs from its socket and knocked out two of his teeth. Bailey is Black.

An attorney for Walker could not be reached.

Young's family is still seeking more information.

“My family demands answers to our questions related to the shooting,” said Khadija Shabazz, Young’s mother “We demand that all of the officers who killed [my son], including Kevin Walker, be immediately fired and held accountable.”

Among her questions is whether her unarmed son was trying to surrender when he was killed. A loaded .38 caliber revolver was found in Young’s car, according to the sheriff’s department.

What The LASD Has Said So Far

The department said Young hit the kidnapped woman in the head with a gun and forced her to disrobe inside his car. The woman eventually escaped, and deputies caught up with Young after he crashed his car into a gate at Woodcrest Elementary School.

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“Young exited his car and ran east on 108th Street toward responding deputies. As Young approached the deputies, he raised a black object in his right hand,” according to the department.

Walker fired seven bullets. Four hit Young. One hit him in the back of the head, which was fatal, according to the coroner’s autopsy. The others hit him in the left buttocks, the lower abdomen and the penis.

According to an account of the shooting by the sheriff's department:

"Detectives learned the black item in Young’s hand at the time of the shooting was a black COVID-19 style mask."

Lindsay Battles, an attorney for Young's family, said that detail was not in the initial report and was only added in an update last month.

Young had previously served time in prison but had changed his life, according to his boss at Ultimate Paints. “He was extremely motivated to walk the right path,” said Eric Versalius McDaniels, who goes by Brother Rashad.

Sheriff’s homicide investigators have completed their report and forwarded it to the district attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division to consider whether Walker violated the law.

The incident occurred just weeks before deputies who patrol the area were issued body worn cameras.

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