LOS ANGELES — The family of a Black man who was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies last year after they tried to detain him for allegedly riding a bicycle illegally is seeking $35 million in damages from Los Angeles County.
Dijon Kizzee, 29, was killed Aug. 31 in South Los Angeles after two deputies tried to stop him for riding a bicycle in the wrong direction. He dropped the bike and ran away, carrying a bundle of clothing that authorities say contained a firearm.
The deputies told investigators they didn't know there was a gun in the clothes and they fired at Kizzee after he picked up the handgun when it fell out during a struggle with one of them. A video showed him stooping down, but a wall blocked a full view. No weapon could be seen in the video, although authorities found a gun at the scene.
An autopsy found that Kizzee had been struck 16 times by bullets in the front and back. Attorneys for the family have said witnesses described a volley of shots being fired as he lay on the ground, though the autopsy does not indicate the position of his body when he was shot.
Kizzee's family filed a legal claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, Wednesday against Los Angeles County. The sheriff's department said Thursday that detectives are still investigating the case and declined further comment, citing the pending litigation.
Attorneys for Kizzee's family questioned why he was stopped by the deputies in the first place, and said it was an example of "biking while Black" in a community of color. The deputies' names have not been released.
"Police officers need to show a reverence for human life," lawyer Dale Galipo said Thursday during a news conference announcing the legal claim. "The culture has to change. Officers need to change. The culture at the departments have to change."
Kizzee's shooting sparked peaceful protests and followed nationwide protests over police confrontations that killed or injured Black men. George Floyd was killed in May after a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee to his neck, and Jacob Blake was shot in the back and left paralyzed in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Kizzee's aunt, Fletcher Fair, said she no longer trusts law enforcement.
"I don't even like looking at them anymore on the street," she said.