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Family of unarmed man killed by deputies files $15-million lawsuit

April 19, 2013|By Richard Winton
  • Jose de la Trinidad, daughter Jocelynn, widow Rosie, and daughter Ariana at his niece's quinceanera. De la Trinidad was shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies minutes after leaving the event.
Jose de la Trinidad, daughter Jocelynn, widow Rosie, and daughter Ariana… (Los Angeles Times )

The family of an unarmed Culver City man fatally shot in the back last November have filed a $15-million wrongful-death and civil rights lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies and the county on Friday.

Jose de la Trinidad, a 36-year-old father of two, was fatally shot on Nov. 10 by deputies who claimed they believed he was reaching for a weapon after a he got out of a car following a short pursuit in an unincorporated county area of Willowbrook.

The suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that Deputies Angel Grandes and Alexandro Gonzalez shot and killed De la Trinidad after he got out of the car even though he was complying with deputies and had his hands raised above his head with his back to them.

DOCUMENT: Jose de la Trinidad autopsy report

“Without cause or provocation, the deputies fired their handguns at Jose De La Trinidad as he stood with his hands raised above his head. The shooting was unreasonable and unjustified,” the suit states.

“We’ve got an eyewitness and physical evidence from the autopsy that shows he was shot in the back with hands above his head by trigger-happy deputies,” said attorney Arnoldo Casillas, who represents De la Trinidad’s wife and two children.

Casillas said the wounds to De la Trinidad’s back and specifically his right forearm show that he posed no danger to the deputies.

De la Trinidad was shot five times in the upper and lower back at 10:20 p.m. in the 1900 block of E. 122ndStreet, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report dated Nov. 13.

The report describes four of those wounds as fatal. He was also shot in the right forearm and right hip, with both shots entering from behind, the report found.

The suit alleges that the deputies “intentionally or negligently" fired their handguns.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department expects to present results from its investigation into the shooting to the Los Angeles district attorney’s office as early as next week. Prosecutors will then make a determination about whether the shooting was legal.

Whitmore said the deputies opened fire only after De la Trinidad made movements like he had a gun and then “turned quickly” like he was about to run. 

But his widow, Rosie de la Trinidad, has insisted that her husband “was doing everything he was supposed to. ... All we're asking for is justice."

Jose de la Trinidad was shot minutes after leaving his niece's quinceañera with his brother, Francisco. He was riding in the passenger seat of his brother's car when deputies tried to pull them over for speeding about 10:20 p.m., authorities said.

After a brief car chase, De la Trinidad got out of the car in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street in Compton and was shot by deputies, officials said.

A woman who said she witnessed the officer-involved shooting told investigators that De la Trinidad had complied with deputies' orders to stop running and put his hands on his head to surrender when two deputies shot him. The witness told The Times she watched the shooting from her bedroom window across the street.

"I know what I saw," the witness, Estefani -- who asked that her last name not be used -- said at the time. "His hands were on his head when they started shooting."

According to the deputies' account, De la Trinidad jumped out of the passenger seat and his brother took off again in the car. One of the four deputies on the scene gave chase in his cruiser, leaving De la Trinidad on the sidewalk and three deputies standing in the street with their weapons drawn, they said.

The deputies initially said De la Trinidad appeared to reach for his waistband, prompting them to fire shots.

The two deputies involved in the shooting were assigned desk duties immediately after the incident but returned to patrol five days later.


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