Compton employees allegedly involved in crash that killed cyclist

By 2UrbanGirls

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — City employees apparently were involved in the death of a bicyclist who was killed in June 2019 at a local intersection.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Compton Boulevard and Sloan Avenue. The man was identified as Jose Portillo, who, according to a lawsuit filed by family members, died after a car, allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed, hit him while he was in a marked crosswalk.

Portillo’s cause of death was listed as “blunt head trauma” by the Los Angeles County medical examiner and his family is seeking unspecified damages from the city of Compton.

The Portillo family has retained Dordick Law Corporation and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, Kimberly McKenzie, the director of employment and training services at the Compton Careerlink; and Tene Kishan, former liaison to District 4 City Councilwoman Emma Sharif in Los Angeles Superior Court in February of this year. The accident occurred in a personal vehicle.

According to City Hall insiders, McKenzie faced no disciplinary action as a result of the accident, which occurred during work hours. Witnesses said the passenger in the car fled the scene while they administered aid to the victim.

“My sister and my 8-year-old daughter witnessed this accident firsthand and it was very traumatic to her,” said Brenda Vega Cruz. “She stood and rendered aid to Mr. Portillo until emergency crews arrived. We even went to St. Francis {Medical Center in Lynwood] to check on him.”

“The passenger in the car fled the scene running,” Cruz added.

However, others familiar with the accident say both occupants of the car stayed on the scene.

“Both the driver and the passenger stayed on the scene which is how they have their names,” said Chaka Spears.

2UrbanGirls reached out to the Sheriff’s Department to identify the occupants of the vehicle.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we are unable to release any information related to this case,” said Sgt. Thomas in the traffic department of the Compton Sheriff’s Station.

2UrbanGirls contacted the city of Compton, but officials declined to provide specific details surrounding the accident.

“I cannot comment on personnel matters,” City Manager Craig Cornwell said.

Councilwoman Emma Sharif was also contacted to confirm whether Kishan’s abrupt resignation from her office was a direct result of the accident.

“I am not aware of what you are referring to,” Sharif said.

The city has retained the legal services of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP to defend the suit. The firm has filed court papers raising more than 40 affirmative defenses to the lawsuit, claiming that Portillo may have contributed to his own death by failing to exercise reasonable care in the operation of his person and/or bicycle, thereby barring his heirs from recovering damages from the city. 

Calls and emails were sent to the attorneys of record, for both the Portillo family and the city of Compton, with neither office responding.

Portillo is survived by three daughters, one of whom is a minor.

The trial is scheduled for August 2021.

2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood area. She can be reached at 2urbangirls@gmail.com.

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