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Family of man shot in back sues L.A. sheriff's deputies, county

The family of Jose de la Trinidad, a 36-year-old father of two who was fatally shot by L.A. County sheriff's deputies last November, files a $15-million wrongful-death and civil rights lawsuit.

April 19, 2013|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Demonstrators in Compton protest in January over the shooting death of Jose de la Trinidad by sheriff's deputies. The family is suing Los Angeles County and two deputies.
Demonstrators in Compton protest in January over the shooting death of… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

The family of an unarmed Culver City man fatally shot in the back last November 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, 36, a father of two, was fatally shot Nov. 10 by deputies who said they believed he was reaching for a weapon after 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 the deputies orders and had his hands raised above his head with his back to them.

"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 East 122nd Street, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department expects to present results from its internal investigation to the Los Angeles district attorney's office as early as next week. Prosecutors will determine whether the deputies should be charged in the shooting. Whitmore said the deputies opened fire only after De la Trinidad made movements as if he had a gun and then "turned quickly" as if he was about to run.

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 open fire.

But a woman who asked that her identity be protected said she witnessed the shooting. She told The Times and investigators that De la Trinidad had complied with deputies' orders to stop running and had his hands raised above his head in surrender when he was shot.

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