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LOS ANGELES — The nation’s second-largest city, already on edge following the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake that have prompted protests and led to unrest in the streets, is now dealing with its own racially divisive shooting by law enforcement.
Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man in a confrontation that followed their attempt to stop him over what they called an unspecified “code violation” as he rode his bicycle on Monday afternoon through an unincorporated section of south Los Angeles.
But unlike Minneapolis, in which an officer kept a knee to Floyd’s neck until he became unconscious and died, or Kenosha, Wisconsin, where an officer shot Blake seven times in the back that has left him paralyzed, video capturing the death of Dijon Kizzee isn’t as clear.
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The case, however, immediately attracted the attention of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matters, which organized protests, and of attorney Ben Crump, who has been active in both the Floyd and Blake cases.
At a Wednesday news conference, Crump and two other attorneys said they will be representing Kizzee’s family in civil claims against the sheriff’s department.
“Dijon Kizzee did not deserve to be executed like this in cold blood as he was running away,” Crump said. “That seems to happen disproportionately to Black and Brown people in America.”
Kizzee’s only crime, Crump said, was to be a Black person riding a bicycle.
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that Kizzee had abandoned the bike and fled on foot when he saw a sheriff’s cruiser make a U-turn and head toward him.
At first, Kizzee eluded them. But when they encountered him a few blocks away and confronted them, the department says Kizzee punched a deputy in the face. Then a black semi-automatic handgun fell to the ground when Kizzee dropped his jacket. Thinking he was reaching for the gun, deputies opened fire, according to the statement.
A grainy video, as seen in a tweet posted Wednesday by Crump, shows a scuffle and that deputies were distanced from Kizzee when they opened fire. It does not appear to confirm the sheriff’s department’s allegation that he “made a motion” for a gun.
Crump and his co-counsel, Carl Douglas and Dale Galipo, said they were able to count 15 to 20 shots, based on audio from the neighbors’ videos of the encounter. They said an autopsy will determine not only the number of times Kizzee was shot, but from what direction.
They said it was no surprise that Kizzee would have taken off running when the deputies tried to confront him. “Look at what has been transpiring with law enforcement for Black people in America,” Crump said. “He was scared.”
After the shooting, Black Lives Matters was quick to act. It called on supporters to come and demonstrate at the scene.
“Los Angeles County Sheriffs killed a Black man…Dijon…on 109th and Budlong and left his body facedown in the dirt. We need all hands on deck. Please get here ASAP!,” the group tweeted. A large crowd gathered and stayed late into the night.
The sheriff’s department listed Kizzee’s age as being about 30.
Kizzee’s aunt, Fletcher Fair, said he was “more like a son to me,” especially since her sister’s death in 2011. She said Kizzee had moved to Lancaster, on Los Angeles County’s northern edge, and attended continuation high school there, but didn’t elaborate more about him.
“He was a good boy,” she said. “He was never a bad person.”
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