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The family of a 29-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies is reportedly pursuing a $35 million damages claim against the county.
Dijon Kizzee was shot Aug. 31 2020 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.
The claim on behalf of the Kizzee family 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.” 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.
During the virtual news conference, the attorneys for the family compared law enforcement violence against people of color to a virus in desperate need of a cure: “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.”
After the shooting, Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Capt. Kent Wegener reportedly said 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, according to Wegener.
A video released by the department reportedly 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.
Kizzee’s attorneys, on the other hand, have denounced the department’s version of events and insist that Kizzee was shot with his hands in the air, then repeatedly shot again while he was on the ground. 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.
Back in Sep., an attorney 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.”
“Witnesses said that he was trying to run away from the officers,” the attorney 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.”
He also shared on a separate instance: “You can tell by the audio of the shooting that there were three or four shots, and then a pause, and 15 additional shots.” The independent autopsy found that Kizzee bled to death after blood filled his lungs. “Nineteen times of firing into a man’s body says to me that there’s been poor training.”
In general, anytime an individual is killed because of someone’s negligence or deliberate acts of malice, the decedent’s surviving family members are entitled to file a wrongful death claim to recover damages. This also applies to police officers. Damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate surviving family members for the loss of tangible and intangible forms of support they reasonably should have expected to receive had the victim not lost his or her life.