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Watchdog agency to review deputy's 2009 killing of Compton teen

Video recently made public appears to contradict deputy's account in the fatal shooting of Avery Cody Jr.

March 09, 2011|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
  • A security-camera video said to show Avery Cody Jr., top, running away from a sheriff's deputy is among evidence in the case.
A security-camera video said to show Avery Cody Jr., top, running away from… (The Sweeney Firm / Associated…)

The official watchdog agency for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will be taking a second look at the fatal 2009 shooting of a Compton teenager by a deputy after new evidence surfaced last week that may contradict the deputy's account of the shooting.

The Office of Independent Review had previously endorsed an internal sheriff's probe that concluded the shooting was within policy.

Michael Gennaco, who heads up that office, said Tuesday that the shooting warrants a second look after attorneys for the family of Avery Cody Jr. presented a video they say shows the deputy touching the teen's body afterward, contradicting his sworn statements in court.

"If there is evidence that contradicts the deputy's impressions, that's something that needs to be looked at," Gennaco said.

Sheriff's officials say Cody pointed a gun at the deputy, but attorneys for the teen's family say that the gun was planted and that the gun powder residue found on his hands was there because the deputy touched him.

A copy of the new video was obtained by The Times. The grainy, shaky footage appears to show a deputy, who cannot be definitively identified as Deputy Sergio Reyes but has a similar frame and skin tone, standing over Cody's body.

The deputy in the footage, taken by a passerby, appears to briefly bend down twice to touch the body. It is unclear whether the deputy made contact with Cody's body or what exactly he was doing.

John Sweeney, the family's attorney, announced the existence of the video during a wrongful death trial last week; it was the first time the judge or defense attorneys had heard about it. The judge declared a mistrial because the evidence hadn't been shared with the defense previously.

Reyes' attorney, Eugene P. Ramirez, said his client was not intentionally lying and was likely just shaken up after a traumatic experience.

Cody and three other teenagers were walking back from lunch in July 2009 when Reyes and a more veteran deputy stopped the group and started to check for weapons. Cody and another boy ran.

Sheriff's officials say Cody turned and pointed a handgun at Reyes, prompting the deputy to shoot.

A .38-caliber revolver was recovered next to Cody's body, sheriff's officials said. Witnesses in the civil case have testified that they didn't see Cody holding a gun but say he may have been holding a cellphone. Sheriff's officials have said they interviewed witnesses who said Cody was holding a gun.

The video, Sweeney said, marks the second instance in which Reyes' account of the shooting and its aftermath has been contradicted by video evidence. The other was when his statement that he took cover behind a metal newspaper rack was refuted by surveillance video from a nearby doughnut shop. Attorneys said it was a fabrication made to exaggerate the danger the deputy felt he was in when he shot the teenager.

Sweeney said he welcomed the decision to take a second look.

"It's clear what happened here," he said. "This was a bad shooting.... It just takes a little scratching under the surface to get to the bottom of this."

Added sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore: "The sheriff has no issues with the OIR looking at any case at any time. That is why he created them."

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