Attorneys for the family of Dijon Kizzee have contested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s claim that he pointed a gun at police before he was shot 15 times in Los Angeles last month.
A news conference was held on Tuesday, during which attorney Carl Douglas revealed that an independent autopsy had shown that some of the shots were fired while the 29-year-old was already on the ground. It also indicated that he was not instantly killed by the shooting. Douglas presented a diagram of the body that exhibited every bullet’s entry point.
Douglas stated that the evidence also signified a lack of assistance from the police after the gunfire that led to Kizzee’s last moments.
“What this shows is he was alive and breathing and writhing in pain when the officers continued to stay away,” Douglas said.
The news conference occurred in the wake of a briefing the previous week by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and additional sheriff’s officials who gave their version of events that preceded the Aug. 31 shooting. Protests have persisted in the aftermath, with mainstream media adding additional attention and further fueling the outrage.
According to the sheriff, Kizzee was stopped by two deputies from the South L.A. station after they spotted him riding his bike on the wrong side of the road. Capt. Kent Wegener said Kizzee then made a U-turn and abandoned his bicycle on the ground before running away.
Wegener said that when one of the deputies got close to Kizzee, Kizzee lifted his arms and hit him in the face, after which a pistol fell to the ground.
“He bends over, reaches, picks up the gun and is shot as he stands with the gun in hand,” said Wegener. “You will see that the deputy struggling with Kizzee does not arm himself until Kizzee bends down to pick up the gun he dropped.”
Previously, sheriff’s officials had said that the shooting occurred after Kizzee had let go of a jacket he was holding and a handgun fell to the ground. The next day, the Sheriff’s Department stated Kizzee “made a motion toward” the gun prior to being shot and killed, causing the former account to be at odds with their current statement.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said about the discrepancy, “It’s not a discrepancy at all — he did make a motion towards the gun. He actually recovered the gun and pointed it at the deputies.”
Villanueva said that when deputies are involved in a shooting, they must give a “public safety statement” to their supervisor before having an interview with homicide investigators.
“And that is what’s first presented when they’re trying to give the preliminary information. It’s always subject to change, just like any investigation, and now when we sit down to interview the deputies in detail we get to pick apart the entire thing. And we have a lot clearer picture,” said Villanueva.
A significant portion of the encounter was caught on video, but some aspects of the skirmish before the shooting are hard to see, such as the instance where Wegener said Kizzee grabbed the gun. The scene is partly blocked by a wall, making it difficult to comprehend the situation.
The Sheriff’s department has also released photos of the weapon they said was retrieved from the scene and a video that was recovered from Kizzee’s cellphone showing him with the gun, carrying the identical serial number, in his pocket. Wegener said the gun was reported stolen in Las Vegas in 2017.
Douglas has expressed that he and Kizzee’s family are offended by the “unspoken messages and half-truths” given by the sheriff’s officials. He said witnesses to the shooting have described Kizzee as “standing up, with nothing in his hands when the younger deputy fired his first three shots at him.”
Najee Ali, a community activist who has spoken on behalf of the Kizzee family, said Villanueva’s version of events is discredited by the individuals present at the scene, as well as from current evidence.
“His lies concerning Kizzee are rebuffed by witnesses who were at the scene and saw Kizzee be shot with his hands in the air,” said Ali. “And the tape that Villanueva showed — it doesn’t show Kizzee pointing his gun at anyone.”