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Criminal Justice

'It Was Murder' — Family Of East L.A. Man Killed By Sheriff's Deputies Plans To Sue

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A memorial for David Ordaz, Jr. set up by family members, just steps away from where he was fatally shot. (Robert Garrova/LAist )
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The family of a man fatally shot by Sheriff's deputies in East L.A. on Sunday is preparing to file a federal wrongful death lawsuit against L.A. County, its lawyer said Wednesday.

Family attorney Federico Sayre said 34-year-old David Ordaz, Jr. was "executed" in the midst of a mental health crisis on the sidewalk in front of his family's home.

He said Ordaz's parents, two sisters and two brothers witnessed the fatal shooting, along with "a variety of other relatives, all of whom were there right in the front yard watching him getting killed."

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The Sheriff's Department said deputies opened fire when Ordaz charged at them while holding a kitchen knife.

But video obtained by Fox News does not clearly show Ordaz charging at deputies.

In the video, Ordaz appears to be holding a knife while staggering back and forth. A deputy fires two stun bags at him. Ordaz stumbles and begins to turn. Just seconds after the stun bags are fired, deputies start shooting live rounds, hitting Ordaz several times.

SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT VERSION IS 'NONSENSICAL'

Deputies were dispatched to the 100 block of North Rowan Ave. on a "medical rescue/suicidal person call" and encountered Ordaz inside a car and holding the knife. They said he ignored their commands to exit the vehicle.

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A Mental Evaluation Team (MET) -- which consists of a specially-trained deputy and a Department of Mental Health clinician -- was dispatched.

The department said before the team could arrive, Ordaz exited the car and ignored commands to drop the knife, even after deputies fired the stun bag.

The deputies opened fire when Ordaz "began to charge at them with the knife in-hand," the department said. He was taken to a local hospital where he died.

Sayre, who represented Rodney King in his civil suit against the city of Los Angeles, called the department's claim that Ordaz charged deputies "nonsensical."

He said based on video that he has seen, Ordaz began to flee after he was struck by the less than lethal rounds. He believes the deputies' tactics before the shooting were wrong and that they should have waited after having fired the stun bags instead of almost immediately opening fire.

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"They fired very quickly and [Ordaz] went down," Sayre said. "And he picked his head up to look at the officers, and then somebody executed him," he added.

"Clearly, in the last shot, it was murder," Sayre said.

SHERIFF: INVESTIGATORS WILL DECIDE WHEN TO RELEASE BODY CAM VIDEO

Speaking on Facebook Live on Wednesday, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the department is in the preliminary stages of the investigation and that the incident was captured on body-worn cameras. "It's something that won't be released until investigators decide it's appropriate," Villanueva said.

State law requires law enforcement agencies to release video of officer shootings within 45 days unless they demonstrate that doing so would "substantially interfere" with an investigation.

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The episode raises the question of whether the situation might have had a peaceful outcome if the Mental Evaluation Team had arrived in time.

The patrol unit requested the MET "about three minutes" after it was notified of the call, said Sheriff's Lt. John Gannon.

But the MET unit at the East L.A. station was unavailable Sunday because the deputy who staffed it was sick, Gannon said. The next closest MET was dispatched from Lakewood.

Sayre said on two other occasions -- in 2006 and 2007 -- deputies were called to help Ordaz. "And in each case they were able to de-escalate the situation without harming him or harming anybody," he said.

Ordaz's sister said she hopes no other family has to endure what they're going through.

"We wanted help for my brother and in the end he was shot and killed," she said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go here for online chat.

For more help: