LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The city of Los Angeles and two of its police officers were sued today in federal court on behalf of a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran who alleges he was shot by police without cause last summer in the Leimert Park neighborhood.
Jermaine Petit, a Black male who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, was walking near the area of Bronson Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard about 7:20 p.m. on July 18 when Los Angeles Police Department officers confronted him without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that he had committed a crime, the lawsuit alleges. According to the LAPD, the Southwest Division patrol officers had received an ``assault with a deadly weapon'' radio call.
The reporting party said the suspect was armed with a black, semi-automatic handgun, the LAPD's critical incident report, posted online on Sept. 1, stated. Officers observed Petit -- matching the description listed in the call -- and made contact, believing he was in possession of a handgun. After Petit refused to respond to officers' verbal commands, a uniformed supervisor arrived at scene, also believing the suspect was armed with a handgun, according to the LAPD's report. Police said that as Petit, then 39, a Los Angeles resident, walked away from the officers, he turned multiple times in their direction and pointed a black metallic object believed to be a firearm, which resulted in the officer-involved shooting. Petit was struck by gunfire and taken into custody.
A six-inch, black metal ``latch actuator,'' a part of a car door's locking mechanism which somewhat resembles a small gun, was recovered at the scene. An LAPD spokesperson said the department does not comment on ending litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that without warning, and despite another officer's confirmation that Petit was unarmed with a gun or with any weapon at all, the two officers named as defendants proceeded toward Petit and used ``unreasonable, excessive, and deadly force'' by discharging their firearms, inflicting multiple gunshot wounds to Petit. The suit contends that shots to Petit's back caused him to break his jaw as he fell face-forward onto the ground. Attorneys for the plaintiff allege that multiple video surveillance views of the incident show Petit's hands as he is trotting away from the officers, showing he was clearly unarmed.
``This type of systemic and ongoing aggression against innocent and unarmed African American men is yet another clear and undeniable example of racial terror inflicted upon Black members of the community in the city of Los Angeles,'' said civil rights attorney Rodney S. Diggs, who is representing Petit.
``Enough is enough! Unwarranted, unprovoked, and blatant acts of violence against innocent African American citizens by rogue police officers, namely the LAPD, must be stopped and should not go unchecked or unpunished by our justice system.'' The suit alleges civil rights violations against Petit, based on unreasonable use of excessive and deadly force, denial of medical care, assault/battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.