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Deputies' use of force condemned in fatal Compton shooting

A federal jury rules against L.A. County deputies in the 2006 incident that left one man dead and his brother wounded, and awards the family $2.65 million.

August 15, 2009|Richard Winton

A federal jury has ruled that L.A. County deputies used unreasonable force when they fatally shot an armed man and wounded his brother in Compton three years ago, and awarded the family $2.65 million.

The verdict outraged Sheriff Lee Baca because he says both of the men were carrying guns at the time of the shooting and the deputies feared for their lives.

"These were armed suspects who are now wrongly being portrayed as victims," Baca said. "I am sure the county counsel will appeal this verdict."

The federal jury reached the decision this week after hearing allegations from the family's attorneys that a deputy fatally shot 22-year-old Freddie Davis Jr. on Feb. 16, 2006, as he ran from officers. His brother, 20-year-old Keyonte Davis, was wounded by a second deputy firing from a moving sheriff's cruiser.

But attorneys for the Davis family say neither of the Long Beach brothers did anything to provoke or justify the shootings.

"Justice was done here," said Ali Taheripour, a lawyer representing the surviving brother and his parents. "We showed at the trial Freddie Davis was shot five times in the back."

Taheripour acknowledged that both brothers were carrying guns when they were chased by deputies, but he insisted that neither brandished their weapons.

The verdict comes as LAPD investigators probe the slaying of the brothers' nephew, 6-year-old Dae'von Bailey, who was allegedly beaten to death by the former boyfriend of their sister, Tylette Davis. The suspect in that death, Marcas Fisher, remains a fugitive.

The 2006 shootings stemmed from a visit by the brothers to a Compton liquor store.

A patron suspecting that they were about to rob the place alerted authorities while the owner pulled out a gun and pointed it at the men. The family's attorneys say the pair paid for beer and left.

But when the two brothers were at Central Avenue near 148th Street about 9:45 p.m., two sheriff's cruisers responding to the attempted robbery call pulled up. Knowing that they had concealed weapons and did not want to get caught, the pair began to run, according to the family's attorneys.

Sheriff's officials said Deputy Russell Helbing and Sgt. James Tatreau Jr. opened fire after Freddie Davis Jr. revealed that he had a sawed-off shotgun and made a motion like he was going to fire it toward the deputies.

Freddie Davis Jr. was hit five times in the back with rounds from Tatreau's department-issued weapon, and Keyonte Davis was shot once in the calf by Helbing, according to the Davis' attorneys. Freddie Davis Jr. was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he died.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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