A protester holds a sign with a picture of Dijon Kizzee, who died after being shot by deputies of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles, Calif.
( AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Arun Venugopal: We're back with The Takeaway, I'm Arun Venugopal in for Tanzina Vega. We're going to go now to the West Coast where two recent police killings have also caused public outcries. Last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, a Black man who was riding his bicycle when deputy stopped him from alleged traffic violation at which point Kizzee ran for the deputies. The Sheriff's department says the deputy shot and killed Kizzee after catching up with him because he reached for a gun following a physical altercation between Kizzee and the officials. Lawyers for Kizzee's family say he was shot at 15 times as he was running away. Kizzee's killing comes just a few months after deputies from the LA County Sheriff's department killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado who was shot five times in the back. Here with me now is Ruben Vives, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times. Thanks for being here, Ruben.
Reuben Vives: Thanks for having me.
Arun: All right. There are some serious discrepancies between how Dijon Kizzee's family says he was killed and what the Sheriff's department is saying. Has any of the video released of his killing show what really happened?
Ruben: Yes and no. The video that has been released, it was a surveillance footage from a house, which happened to capture the altercation and shooting that followed after that. Is not of the best quality, but it does show Dijon walking and deputies approaching him. There's a scuffle and both the deputy and Dijon fall. Shortly after that, we see that the shooting took place, but it's really hard to see whether anything that the Sheriff's department says validates anything they've been saying, but also, it raises questions about what really, truly what happened.
Arun: Well, according to one of your articles, the sheriff says Kizzee was "riding a bicycle" in violation of vehicle codes. The fact that he ended up dead makes that phrase, especially Orwellian. Do you know what it even means?
Ruben: We don't and we've been trying to get the answer to that question from the Sheriff's department since this incident occurred. Their response has been, we have been unable to speak to the deputies. Therefore, we don't know what vehicle code violation he supposedly had violated.
Arun: Why can't they speak to the deputies? What's going on with that?
Ruben: That's a good question. They haven't spoken to the homicide detectives who are going to be investigating the deputy-involved shooting. They have to go through them, but there really is no real reason why we should not be able to get a response to these questions. They're very simple questions about asking, well, why did you stop him and they've just been stalling on responding. We've been constantly asking, not just us, but through the media here on the West Coast have been inquiring about this vehicle code violation. What is it and what prompted these deputies to just end up shooting him at the very end which is why there is this criticism of the department right now could have this been deescalated, did it really need to reach that level of where the deputy's needed to use excessive force? Was this code violation even a real reason why they were stopping Dijon Kizzee?
Arun: What should people outside of LA know about the neighborhood of Westmont where he was killed?
Ruben: Well, Westmont it's a neighborhood that has had a lot of trouble in the past. There's a lot of killings that happen there and there's a couple of police killings just as you mentioned earlier, you know that [unintelligible 00:04:10] before Dijon Kizzee was killed three months before that, a 19-year-old Latino man was also killed by deputies. I believe he was shot 17 times in that particular shooting. This is a poor neighborhood. It faces a lot of challenges economically and from a health standpoint.
Arun: How has the community responded to this killing?
Ruben: A lot of people are angry. Obviously, the killing of Dijon to them, this speaks to a broader issue of what's happening in the country of Black people being killed by police. They see him as another victim of police violence. It's led to protests, it's led to calls for resignation of Sheriff Alex Villanueva who they say failed to hold his deputies accountable. There's other problems that are affecting the department. This is all adds to this frustration and distrust of the Sheriff's department.
Arun: There's also separately been recent developments in the case of Andres Guardado, who was also killed. What's the latest there?
Ruben: Well, most recently, there was a lawsuit filed against the deputies and the Sheriff's department in the County as well for that particular shooting. Since then, the deputies have been named in the shooting. One of them is Miguel Vega, the other one is Christopher Hernandez. What's interesting about this particular complaint is that it try to link these deputies to a reputed gang that operates out of competent station. They're known as the executioners and basically, it's just a group of deputies, which for camraderie reasons created this group but they're not the only one. It's a series of them are spread out throughout the station and it's become a problem because, to the families of the victims who've been killed by deputies, it's viewed as a criminal gang organization that there is bias behind what they do when they shoot and when they perform their law enforcement duties. The complaint alleges a lot of things, but what's interesting is that he tries to link both deputies to a secret society that exists within the Sheriff's department. We've learned since then that there are several groups operating within the Sheriff's department and critics allege these groups are violent and use intimidating tactics similar to street gangs. In fact, LA County has spent $55 million in settlements, in which deputies were accused of using excessive force and belong to this secret society that's made up of these small groups scattered around the department, such as the executioners, the Vikings, the Bandidos, and that's what's been laid out in that that has come out as a result of that complaint.
Arun: Thank you. Ruben Vives is a reporter for The Los Angeles Times. Thanks so much, Ruben.
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