An attorney representing the 8-year-old daughter of a Muslim fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy filed a $15-million lawsuit Friday against the Sheriff's Department, alleging that the agency conspires to harass black Muslims.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges that Brittany Beasley suffered extreme mental and emotional stress in the wake of the Jan. 23 shooting of her father, Oliver, who died during a scuffle between deputies and members of the Nation of Islam.
Deputies David Dolson--a trainee who fired the fatal shot into Beasley's head--and William Tackaberry are also named as defendants, along with the county and Sheriff Sherman Block.
At a news conference in his office, attorney Arden B. Silverman described what he called "a conspiracy" by the Sheriff's Department to harass members of the Nation of Islam, a plot he contended led to the killing of Beasley.
"We feel that they (members of the Sheriff's Department) don't care for (the Muslims') religion, their dress or their way of life," said Silverman. "As a result, we feel, the Sheriff's Department has a conspiracy--be it written or unwritten--to give these people a hard time."
Silverman said he had heard of several incidents of harassment of Muslims by deputies and Los Angeles police officers before the Beasley shooting, which triggered waves of outrage and protest from the African American community.
A Sheriff's Deparment spokesman declined to respond to Silverman's allegations.
In April, Silverman filed a $15-million wrongful-death claim against the county, charging that the Sheriff's Department was negligent in dispatching trainee Dolson to a "hotbed of tension between residents and law enforcement officers." Silverman said that the county rejected the claim.
The department has cleared the deputies of wrongdoing.
Silverman said he hoped the lawsuit would compel all law enforcement officers to restrain from firing too quickly at unarmed people.
"Perhaps the deputies were too trigger-happy," he said. "Perhaps they overreacted. We hope this (suit) has a deterrent effect, to make deputies think twice before they pull their guns and shoot people."