Investigators looking into the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Black man Dijon Kizzee say he picked up a gun he had dropped before two deputies fired 19 rounds, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday. But an attorney for the Kizzee family says video shows Kizzee running away.
Kizzee was killed late last month, and his shooting sparked protests in a city that has already seen months-long unrest following the late May death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
Deputies first attempted to stop Kizzee on August 31 for “riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the road” and “splitting traffic,” LASD Homicide Bureau Capt. Kent Wegener said in a news conference Thursday. Kizzee refused to stop, abandoned his bicycle and fled on foot with a towel in one hand and a jacket in the other hand, he said.
During the encounter with the two deputies, Wegener said, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol wrapped in a piece of clothing fell to the ground. Kizzee bent over and reached back to pick up the pistol when each deputy fired, striking Kizzee several times in the torso, Wegener said.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Kizzee family, said video footage of the incident contradicts the sheriff’s department’s findings.
“What we see on the video is very clear, he is running away when deputies shoot him,” Crump told CNN. “They are trying to tell us what they see on the video isn’t real.”
Crump appears to be referring to grainy cell phone video recorded from a house that purportedly shows the deputies pursuing Kizzee. The video, posted to Crump’s Twitter account on September 2, shows Kizzee walking away from the officers before one closes in on him. Kizzee appears to bend over before the deputy backs up rapidly and opens fire.
A total of 19 rounds were fired by the deputies, Wegener said. The deputies were not wearing body cameras. The pistol in Kizzee’s possession, which was reported stolen in February 2017 from Las Vegas, was loaded with 15 live rounds when investigators recovered it at the scene, Wegener said. It has been sent to a lab for forensic testing.
In a cell phone video recorded a few days prior to the incident and found by investigators on Kizzee’s phone, Kizzee is shown armed with the pistol in his pocket, said Wegener.
“We were able to read that serial number,” he said, referring to the gun from the cell phone video.
Autopsy results placed on hold
Kizzee sustained “several wounds to the chest, both arms, and one wound to the back as well as a grazing wound to his head,” Wegener said in a news conference Thursday.
“The details of the trauma and toxicology reports will be contained in the completed coroner’s report.” According to Wegener, the autopsy report has not yet been finalized by the coroner’s office.
The LA County medical examiner’s office confirmed earlier this month Kizzee died from gunshot wounds and his death was ruled a homicide. But the number of gunshots Kizzee sustained during the shooting have not yet been released. The sheriff’s department placed the autopsy results on a “security hold,” according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office.
The criminal investigation of the shooting will be forwarded to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office to determine if deputies involved violated any criminal laws, Wegener added.
Calls for resignation
After the department’s latest update on the shooting investigation Thursday, Kizzee’s family called for the resignation of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“Dijon Kizzee would be alive right now had he not been racially profiled, stopped and harassed by the sheriff’s deputies,” community activist Najee Ali said Thursday, speaking on behalf of the Kizzee family.
“The family of Dijon Kizzee, along with a coalition of community leaders including myself, are calling upon the resignation of Alex Villanueva because we believe his leadership lacks integrity and character,” Ali said.
Amid intense scrutiny for allegedly mishandling other deputy-involved incidents in Los Angeles County, Villanueva has also received calls to resign from some county supervisors and several board members of Los Angeles’ Civilian Oversight Commission, the body responsible for overseeing the sheriff’s department.
“Villanueva must go,” Ali said. “Once again, he is blaming a Black man for his own murder by the Sheriff’s department.”
CNN has reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment from Villanueva.
An LASD statement on Thursday said the commission’s calls were “morally repugnant” and politically motivated.