The mother of an 18-year-old man fatally shot by a DEA agent in a Studio City parking lot hopes that a pending trial against the federal agency in March will clear her son's name.
Carol Champommier said Saturday that her only son, Zachary, an honor's student and band member at Granada Hills High School, was shot because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time as he tried to drive away from what he thought were strangers attacking an acquaintance in a shopping center parking lot in the summer of 2010.
Officials said Zachary Champommier was shot because he tried to run over a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy working on an undercover DEA task force.
"I don't know how you can pull a gun on someone who's committed no crime," said Carol Champommier, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government. "He didn't ram anyone. They can't lie anymore."
The Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment, citing a policy against speaking about pending litigation. It was a DEA agent who killed Zachary Champommier, the lawsuit alleges.
The incident happened at 9:30 p.m. on June 24, 2010 when Zachary Champommier went to the parking lot in the 12100 block of Ventura Boulevard to meet an acquaintance he had met online the night before, court records said.
At the same time, a group of federal, state and local law enforcement officers in plainclothes and unmarked cars gathered in the same parking lot to debrief after serving a search warrant at a home nearby, court records said.
Zachary Champommier was shot when he tried to drive out of the parking lot after seeing the undercover officers "violently accost" his acquaintance they said they thought appeared as if he was going to break into a car, said Cara Eisenberg, a Champommier attorney.
"They thought he was going to do a 'snatch and grab,'" Eisenberg said. The acquaintance, she said, was simply searching for Champommier's car at the other end of the parking lot.
At first, officers claimed Zachary Champommier was driving 38 mph, in an attempt to harm the officer, said Eisenberg. Later, both sides agreed that Champommier was traveling no more than 13 mph, Eisenberg said.
An accident reconstruction expert for Champommier said the car was either rolling or stopped at the time the officers shot him, Eisenberg said.
An LA County sheriff's deputy, who also fired his weapon, claimed he was injured from the impact with the car, Eisenberg said. A witness said it appeared the deputy hopped over the car and slid off, Eisenberg said.
The deputy suffered no physical wounds and the car had no dents, scratches or marks from the impact, Eisenberg said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Dec. 21, 2011, alleges the officers gave false statements about the incident, concealed information, and tampered with evidence, in an effort to try to "cover up" an "unjustified" shooting.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in March in a federal courtroom downtown.