LOS ANGELES — Dismissing the sheriff’s department release of videos and information surrounding the Westmont shooting of Dijon Kizzee by two deputies as a “media-driven sideshow,” an attorney for Kizzee’s family said Sept. 18 the man’s killing was nothing short of “an execution.”
Attorney Carl Douglas said in a statement that Kizzee’s family was “disturbed by the unspoken messages and half-truths expressed” during a sheriff’s department news conference Sept. 18 to update the investigation of the shooting.
“It was a media-driven sideshow, designed to deflect attention from the 19 shots two sheriff deputies fired at an unarmed man,” Douglas said.
“Nineteen shots reflect poor training, and a failure to properly assess the need for deadly force. Nineteen shots reflect contagious fire and a fundamental lack of humanity for another living soul.
“Nineteen shots reflect poorly trained killers who over-reacted in assessing the need to use deadly force,” he said. “Witnesses to the shooting said Mr. Kizzee was standing up, with nothing in his hands when the younger deputy fired his first three shots at him. After Dijon fell and was no longer a threat to any deputy, both deputies then fired 16 additional shots into Dijon’s body, though he was already down, clearly mortally wounded, and posing no threat to any deputy.
“That sounds like an execution to me,” Douglas said.
Douglas addressed the media again Sept. 23, saying that Kizzee was shot repeatedly while “writhing on the ground in pain.”
Kizzee, 29 was fatally shot Aug. 31 during a confrontation with the deputies in the Westmont neighborhood of South Los Angeles.
County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a mid-afternoon press conference on Sept. 17 to update the public on the shooting.
He began by discussing that Westmont is a high-crime area that was dubbed as “Death Alley” by the Los Angeles Times in 2014.
This year, he said the area has racked up 12 homicides, and 163 incidents of shootings and described these details as “context” as to why the deputies were in the area, and not randomly pulling people over as stated on social media.
“The overwhelming majority of the residents of this community are upstanding, law-abiding citizens, trying to survive in a war zone,” Villanueva said. “We’re trying to save lives.”
But at a news conference in Ladera Heights Sept. 22, attorneys for Kizzee’s family, including national civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, denounced the sheriff’s version of events, insisting that Kizzee was shot with his hands in the air, then was shot repeatedly while he was on the ground.
“He tried to surrender to them. He put his hands in the air,” Crump said. “He put his hands in the air, dropped the bag, and they continued to shoot him, even though he posed no threat.”
Douglas said the independent autopsy conducted for the family determined that Kizzee was shot 15 times, “seven times with his profile of the back pointing toward” deputies.
“Some of those shots … are elongated because Mr. Kizzee was on the ground when those grazing wounds were inflicted,” Douglas said.
“He did not die instantly,” Douglas added. “He was writhing on the ground in pain when officers opened up on him. You can tell by the audio of the shooting that there were three or four shots and then a pause, and 15 additional shots followed after that. Witnesses confirmed that there was no effort at de-escalation. “Ask Villanueva about that. Witnesses confirmed there were no warnings every given. Ask Villanueva about that. This sideshow that he put forward last week was simply an effort to save his embattled skin.”
Douglas said Dr. John Hiserodt, who performed the independent autopsy, determined Kizzee “died from bleeding to death after blood filled his lungs after being shot.”
Crump compared Kizzee’s shooting to those of other Black men by police across the country.
“Look at these videos,” he said. “Just look at them, and you will see that these Black men are just trying to get away from the police.
“While America is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we in Black America are dealing with the 1619 pandemic,” Crump added. “That represents the year when the first enslaved Africans were brought to America, and from that year to this one, for 401 years, we have been dealing with systematic racism and oppression that has us bear witness to them killing us outside the courtroom and inside the courtroom, on stuff as benign as riding a bicycle while Black.”
“I’ve come here today to proclaim to you all in Los Angeles, California, that you all are not immune to the 1619 pandemic, and exhibit one … is the execution of Dijon Kizzee.”
Capt. Kent Wegener, head of the homicide bureau, disclosed last week that deputies contacted Kizzee because he was riding his bike on the wrong side of the street.
After the deputies tried to make contact with Kizzee, he rode off on his bike, ultimately fell off and ran. Residents in the area pointed out to deputies which way he was headed.
When the deputies caught up to Kizzee at 109th Place, a scuffle ensued and Kizzee dropped items of clothing, which concealed a 9mm handgun, which was later to be determined as stolen.
Multiple videos were shown of the encounter.
One of the videos came from Kizzee’s personal cellphone that showed him with the gun that was recovered at the scene. At the time of the shooting, the gun was loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition.
Kizzee was banned from owning or possessing a weapon at the time, due to a restraining order and his criminal record as a convicted felon, according to the sheriff’s department.
According to Capt. Wegener, an autopsy took place Sept. 2, but the autopsy report had not been completed.
Villanueva said in the spirit of transparency, he wanted to release details to the public in a timely manner.
The Kizzee shooting has prompted a series of protests outside the South Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station, leading to three dozen arrests following clashes between demonstrators and deputies that turned violent.
City News Service contributed to this story.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.