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Parents of man shot to death by Anaheim police sue city

The innocent bystander, 20, was shot as an officer was chasing burglary suspects

January 01, 2009|Tony Barboza and Paloma Esquivel

The parents of an innocent 20-year-old black man who was fatally shot in his frontyard by an Anaheim police officer in October have sued the city, alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana alleges that the officer was "motivated by racial prejudice" when he "repeatedly and unjustifiably" shot an unarmed Julian Alexander early on Oct. 28. The suit, filed on behalf of parents Jerry Alexander and Sheryl Bell, also alleges that officers "denied medical care" to Julian Alexander after shooting him.

"Dealing with this on a day-to-day basis is something I wouldn't wish on anybody," Bell said.

Alexander heard a commotion and emerged from his house holding what authorities say was either a broomstick or a shower rod when he ran into an Anaheim police officer who was chasing burglary suspects. The officer shot him twice in the chest. Alexander was handcuffed and taken to UCI Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Within hours, Police Chief John Welter said Alexander was innocent of any wrongdoing and apologized for the shooting, calling it "a tragic situation."

The officer who shot Alexander is back on patrol. Officials have refused to identify him or provide details of the incident and the officer's record with the department.

"They need to be forthcoming with the officer's history, service record and bring some closure to this," said the Rev. Lacy Sykes, pastor of Cross Word Christian Church in Riverside, where Alexander and his mother attended. "What concerns us is that it appears that they are circling the wagons, and I'm hopeful that they're not trying to wash away any dirt that may be there."

In a November letter responding to questions from The Times, City Atty. Christina Talley said the officer's name isn't being released because the shooting has "stirred the emotions of the community, generated substantial criticism of the Anaheim Police Department, and thus far, given rise to one threat against the police department."

Later, she cited concerns about a meeting at a Los Angeles bookstore at which attendees planned to "talk about why these kinds of murders happen and how we can turn our grief and outrage into resistance," as evidence of the situation's "emotionally charged" nature.

City officials and the Orange County district attorney's office, which is investigating the incident, have refused to say how many shots were fired and where the officer was when he shot Alexander. A spokeswoman for the district attorney said it would take six months to a year to complete the investigation.

Details about the juveniles whom police say they were chasing also have not been released. The young men were interviewed but not arrested, and police have not said whether a burglary occurred in the area as was first reported.

The lawsuit seeks to have the city pay for medical, burial and funeral expenses, legal fees and undetermined damages.

Alexander had married about a week before he was killed.

His widow, Renee Alexander, gave birth to their baby girl last month.

She plans to file a suit against the city later this month, said her attorney, Brian Dunn.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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