LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Attorneys for the family of a 29-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in the Westmont area announced a $35 million damages claim against the county today.
The claim on behalf of the family of Dijon Kizzee said the damages amount includes $25 million for “severe and substantial'' damages incurred by his father, Edwin Kizzee, and $10 million for economic and injury costs to his estate “stemming from the intentional and/or negligent infliction of harm on Mr. Kizzee until the moment that he took his last breath.''
During a remote news conference, attorneys for the family compared law enforcement violence against people of color to a virus in desperate need of a cure.
“This is a virus that is plaguing our communities,'' national civil rights attorney Ben Crump said. “We have to find a vaccine for this virus. Other than that, it will be just as prolific in 2021 as it was in 2020. So that's why we filed this $35 million claim, to send a message from the mountaintop that we won't continue to let the people who we pay taxes to continue to kill our children.''
A claim is a legally required precursor to a lawsuit against a government. If the county rejects the claims or fails to respond to it within 45 days, a lawsuit can be filed.
Kizzee was shot Aug. 31 by two sheriff's deputies in the unincorporated community of Westmont, near South Los Angeles, where they initially stopped him for biking on the wrong side of East 110th Street.
Sheriff's Homicide Bureau Capt. Kent Wegener said after the shooting that Kizzee was carrying a loaded handgun when he was stopped by the deputies. And although he dropped it during the initial confrontation and physical altercation, Kizzee picked it up from the ground and pointed it toward the deputies, prompting the shooting, Wegener said.
“At one point, Kizzee's pistol drops to the ground, he bends over, reaches, picks up the gun and is shot while he stands with the gun in hand,'' Wegener said.
Wegener said one of the deputies did not recognize the object as a gun until “it came up and he saw the barrel pointing at him.''
A video released by the department shows the initial struggle, in which Kizzee can be seen swinging his arms at the deputies. A 9mm semiautomatic handgun, loaded with 15 rounds, was recovered at the scene, according to Wegener, who said the gun was reported stolen during a Las Vegas residential burglary in February 2017. The department also recovered footage on Kizzee's phone that shows him with the same gun days before he was killed, according to the captain.
The damages claim alleges the county failed to properly train the deputies involved, and that Kizzee “did nothing to justify this use of serious and unreasonable force against him,'' among other allegations.
Kizzee's attorneys have denounced the department's version of events and insist that Kizzee was shot with his hands in the air, then was shot repeatedly while he was on the ground.
In September, attorney Carl Douglas said an independent autopsy determined Kizzee was shot 15 times, and that he did not die instantly, but was “writhing on the ground in pain when officers opened up on him.''
On Thursday, he reiterated the assertion that Kizzee was shot while running away from deputies -- a training officer and a trainee, whose names have not been released.
“Witnesses said that he was trying to run away from the officers,'' Douglas said. “Witnesses said that he never threatened any officer with anything. And then, once that gun dropped to the ground, witnesses say that the training officer fired four times, striking Mr. Kizzee in his chest. And after Mr. Kizzee fell to the ground, witnesses say the other officer joined and they both opened up and struck Mr. Kizzee's body more than 16 different times.''
The shooting of Kizzee prompted a series of protests outside the South Los Angeles Sheriff's Station.
Photo: Getty Images
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