Family Releases Video Of Mentally-Ill Man Shot And Killed By Deputies
The family of a mentally-ill man who was recently shot and killed by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies has released video of the incident.
John Berry, 31, was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies on July 6 in front of his Lakewood home, the Press Telegram reports. The family is suing L.A. County and the sheriff's department, accusing them of negligence, assault and battery and violation of civil rights.
Berry's family said he had a history of mental illness, and was prescribed medication for schizophrenia a few years ago. His family said he worked as the manager of a pizza restaurant and was upset about losing his job, according to the L.A. Times.
On the day he was killed, Berry arrived at the house he shared with members of his family at 5500 block of Adenmoor Ave., parked his BMW on the lawn and wouldn't get out of the car. Berry's brother, 37-year-old Chris Berry, told the Times that it seemed like his brother hadn't gotten any sleep lately. His family believes John Berry may have gone off his medication and was having a schizophrenic episode. They said that John Berry had also showed up to the house on July 4, behaving strangely on that day, too.
Chris Berry, a police officer himself, called the Lakewood sheriff's station to request a mental evaluation team, but was told deputies would have to respond first. When the deputies arrived, they tried to get John Berry out of the car, but he refused. Chris Berry said that the deputies soon became aggressive, Tasering his brother four times, hitting him with batons and using pepper spray.
In the three-minute video shot by a neighbor, you can hear the neighbor demanding the police "stop beating" John. She is also heard coaxing him to come out of the car, calling him "Johnny." You can also hear someone, presumably, a deputy, yelling, "Stop kicking me," and saying that John Berry won't get out of the car. It's when John Berry appears to drive his car backwards that deputies open fire. Several shots are heard as the neighbor screams, "Oh, my God!" John Berry was pronounced dead at the scene.
L.A. County Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said in a statement that the video "only shows a portion" of what happened and "is consistent with other information developed during the investigation."
Nishida said that deputies were responding to reports of a person behaving "erratically" and that when they arrived, "the suspect drove his vehicle head on into a responding sheriff's patrol car." John Berry allegedly driving into a police car when deputies first showed up is not seen on the video, as the footage begins mid-way into the confrontation.
"As deputies attempted to remove the suspect from his vehicle, he continued his attempts to operate the vehicle, placing at least one deputy's life in immediate danger. That is when the shooting occurred," Nishida said.
A release from the sheriff's department states:
As a second deputy arrived on scene, further attempts to restrain the suspect were made. The suspect continued to fight. The deputies tried to put the suspect’s car in park, but the suspect resisted by punching and shoving them. The deputies requested assistance from additional deputies who arrived on scene. Deputies continued an attempt to subdue the suspect, using various less lethal options, including OC Spray and a taser; however, they had no effect on the suspect. During the fight, the suspect purposely placed his vehicle in reverse, with the driver’s door open. The suspect’s vehicle struck the rear bumper of an adjacent radio car. One deputy attempting to subdue the suspect was crushed between the suspect’s vehicle and an adjacent radio car. At that point, fearing for the deputy’s life, assisting deputies fired at the suspect, striking him in the upper torso."
Chris Berry disagrees with the police's telling of events, telling the Times, "They said he accelerated and crashed into the police car. That did not happen, I was there for the whole thing...But they have to say that because it justifies their aggressive actions… I believe in my heart and I know Johnny wasn't trying to hurt them."
Steven Carlson, the Berry family's attorney, claimed that the Deputy wasn't pinned, but rather fell down and that's when deputies opened fire.