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Anaheim officer who killed man is amateur boxer, lawsuit says

The wrongful-death suit filed by Manuel Diaz's family identifies the officer as Nick Bennallack, whose nickname is 'Buckshot.' The shooting helped spur unrest in the city.

October 09, 2012|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Genevieve Huizar, mother of Manuel Diaz, who was killed by Anaheim police on July 21, speaks during an Anaheim City Council community forum in August.
Genevieve Huizar, mother of Manuel Diaz, who was killed by Anaheim police… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

The Anaheim police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in July, spurring unrest in the city, is an amateur boxer on the side who uses the nickname "Buckshot" when he is in the ring, according to an amended wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the city Tuesday.

Anaheim police have declined repeated requests by The Times to identify the officer involved in the July 21 shooting, citing safety concerns. The incident was one of two fatal police shootings in Anaheim during that weekend that led to weeks of street protests and violence in Orange County's largest city.

But in the amended $50-million lawsuits, attorneys for the family of Manuel Diaz identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as Nick "Buckshot" Bennallack. Diaz was later identified by authorities as a member of Eastside Anaheim, one of the city's most deeply rooted gangs.

The shooting is being investigated by the FBI and the Orange County district attorney's office.

"This man should not be on the streets carrying a gun.... He is a violent cop: he belongs to a fight club, is nicknamed 'Buckshot,' and he shot an unarmed man in the back of the head," said Dana Douglas, an attorney representing Diaz's family.

"In what universe is it OK to put such a man back on the street while he is being investigated for homicide? Apparently it's OK in the alternate reality that is the culture of the Anaheim Police Department."

Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said in an email that "Bennallack has returned to full duty and is assigned to our Operations Division."

Bennallack was named rookie officer of the year in 2008, the department said. He is an active heavyweight boxer who participates in public agency events against other fighters affiliated with police and fire departments and the military, appearing at venues such as the Pechanga Resort & Casino, according to United Combat Assn., which is an amateur boxing organization.

The incident involving Diaz, 25, was the first of two fatal officer-involved shootings that July weekend. He was shot by one of two officers who spotted him while driving down an alley in the 600 block of North Anna Drive. Diaz and two other men fled on foot and then a shooting occurred.

Anaheim's police union said Diaz was holding a "concealed object in his front waistband with both hands" and pulled out an object and turned toward police. The officer feared that Diaz was pulling out a weapon, the union said.

But Diana Lopez, another attorney for the family, said Diaz "was shot in the back of the leg area, brought to his knees before being shot in the head.... It was an execution-style shot."

The lawsuit contends the shooting was part of a pattern of abuse by Anaheim police against Latinos, who make up a majority in the city of 340,000.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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