Waters calls for attorney general to investigate latest killing by deputies
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is calling on the state attorney general to investigate what she called a “pattern of abuses” in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a man on a bicycle Aug. 31.
Dijon Kizzee, 29, was riding his bicycle when in the unincorporated area of Westmont when the incident happened about 3:15 p.m.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Kizzee was riding a bicycle when he committed an unspecified “code violation” that caught the attention of deputies from the South Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station patrolling in the area.
After he was stopped, Kizzee allegedly tried to run away, according to a statement issued by the department.
“Our suspect was holding some items of clothing in his hands, punched one of the officer in the face and dropped the items in his hands,” the sheriff’s statement added. “The deputies noticed that inside the clothing items that he dropped was a black, semiautomatic handgun, at which time a deputy-involved-shooting occurred.”
But Waters and other local activists were not buying the sheriff’s department’s version of the story.
“Whatever details the sheriffs leak or reveal over the coming days about why Dijon Kizzee was shot dead in Westmont, we know for a fact that a Black man stopped while riding his bicycle should not be dead today,” Waters said in a statement Sept. 2.
“I stand with the community in condemning unaccountable rogue sheriffs and police officers who continue to hunt and murder unarmed people of color in our communities,” she said. “It’s past time for the attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to intervene and investigate the pattern of abuses at the L.A. [County] Sheriff’s Department. The department is out of control and has lost the confidence of the community it is supposed to protect. There will be no peace in our streets until the LASD cleans house.”
Activist Najee Ali was on the scene of the shooting shortly after it happened and urged resdents who gathered near the site of the shooting not to rush to judgment.
“The police will tell you he was stopped for a traffic vehicle code and what they won’t tell you is he was on his bicycle minding his own business,” Ali said. “On behalf of a coalition of community leaders and the family, we are demanding the arrest and prosecution of the deputies involved. Another unarmed Black man shot and killed.”
At a press conference Sept. 1, members of Kizzee’s family said they wanted justice for him, but they didn’t want the community to take advantage of his death for what he described as a “political movement”.
But by the following day, noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump was on the case, representing Kizzee’s family.
Crump said Kizzee was shot in the back more than 20 times and left lying in the dirt for hours after he was dead. There has been no confirmation about the number of shots fired.
Kizzee “did not deserve to be executed like this as he was running away,” Crump said. “We want the [District Attorney’s Office] and [attorney general] to hold officers accountable. This seems to happen disproportionately to colored people in the U.S. Dijon Kizzee’s life matters.”
Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager killed by a vigilante in 2012. He held a virtual news conference Sept. 2 with co-counsels Dale Galipo and Carl Douglas and members of Kizzee’s family.
Douglas, who was part of the team that represented O.J. Simpson in the 1994-95 murder trial that ended with the ex-football star’s acquittal, alleged that the Kizzee case shows that a “warrior mentality led these officers to shoot this man more than 15 times in the back. There’s no way they can justify the privilege of using deadly force — to shoot this man in the back.”
Galipo, who has handled hundreds of officer-involved shooting cases in Los Angeles, said “the law says you can shoot someone only when there is a threat of death. You’re supposed to show a reverence for human life [as an officer]. Shooting is supposed to be a last resort.”
The deputies who shot Kizzee were removed from the field pending a review, as is standard procedure, the sheriff’s department said.
Sheriff’s deputies have not yet begun wearing body cameras, so Crump urged anyone with video footage of the confrontation to come forward. Some doorbell footage capturing the shots being fired was released Sept. 1.
The shooting prompted two nights of protest demonstrations and activists demanded that the deputies involved in the shooting be arrested and prosecuted.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, speaking at the Board of Supervisors meeting the day after the shooting, did not discuss details of the shooting, but offered his condolences to Kizzee’s relatives.
“I want to extend my condolences to the family of Dijon Kizzee,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and that includes a member of my own department who is a cousin of the deceased.”
But Waters wasn’t receptive to the sheriff’s condolences.
“Now another man is dead, shot between 10 and 20 times, after being initially stopped on his bicycle,” Waters said. “We do not yet know all of the details of this incident, but I share in the community’s outrage. The ongoing message these police killings send is that the lives of people of color do not matter and that the practice is to shoot first and ask questions later.”
City News Service also contributed to this story.