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Widow of man shot by police files $10-million claim

Laura Cox alleges that LAPD officers improperly fired upon Maurice Leroy Cox Jr.

March 18, 2008|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

The widow of an unarmed man whose fatal shooting by the LAPD was captured on a video now appearing on YouTube filed a $10-million claim against the city Monday, alleging that one officer's gunfire led other officers to wrongly fire their weapons.

Attorney Carl Douglas, who filed the claim on behalf of the widow of Maurice Leroy Cox Jr., said the man did not provoke the fatal shots March 1.

Douglas said that far from being a "suicide by cop," as police accounts portray it, the shooting was a case of "contagious fire," with one officer firing after hearing another do so.

"This wasn't a suicide by cop. He never went toward officers. He ran away when they fired," Douglas said. More than 30 shots were fired at the unarmed man, he said.

The video of the shooting has appeared on YouTube and shows Cox getting out of a pickup after crashing into a tree at Crenshaw Boulevard near 57th Street, then backing away from police and then running after an officer opens fire.

As Cox runs through a dark parking lot, the video records a second volley fired by police; when he goes around the corner of a building, more shots can be heard.

The video, shot by Alex Alonso, a doctoral candidate at USC and operator of streetgangs.com, does not show the final shots fired at Cox, but it does depict him on the ground after being hit multiple times.

According to a Los Angeles Police Department statement, Cox, after crashing his gray pickup about 7:05 p.m., reached into his glove box, then told officers to move away or they would be killed.

About 15 minutes later Cox got out and pointed what appeared to be a weapon at officers. Officer Jose Campos, a six-year veteran, opened fire, according to police.

Cox then ran through a bank parking lot.

When he turned back toward officers, they responded by firing again, police said.

He then ran toward another group of officers, drawing more shots, police said.

Officers later discovered that the alleged weapon was a cigarette lighter adapter, police said.

During the incident, five officers fired their weapons.

In his claim for Laura Cox, Douglas said her husband was dazed by the collision and that when he got out of the truck he back-pedaled with hands in plain view before officers opened fire, striking him two or three times in the upper body. Douglas said Cox never made a verbal threat toward police or any furtive gestures.

The claim, a required precursor to a lawsuit against the city, also alleges that after Cox was shot, officers did not get him immediate medical care.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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