LA County Watchdog Excluded From Observing Dijon Kizzee Autopsy

Office of Inspector General told a citizens’ oversight panel Thursday that the Sheriff’s Department has not allowed independent observation at the autopsy.

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The head of LA County’s Office of Inspector General said Thursday that the Sheriff’s Department did not allow independent observation at the autopsy of Dijon Kizzee, who was shot to death by two deputies after a confrontation on a sidewalk in Westmont Monday afternoon.

Inspector General Max Huntsman, who’s repeatedly complained publicly that Sheriff’s officials have failed to cooperate with his office’s oversight investigations, told members of the County’s Civilian Oversight Commission that he had requested to attend the Coroner’s examination.

Dijon Kizzee, 29, was fatally shot about 3:15 p.m. Monday during a confrontation with deputies near West 109th Place and South Budlong Avenue. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

“We asked specifically that they include us at the autopsy,” Huntsman said during a virtual town hall meeting. “I was concerned when we didn’t hear back from them so I called the coroner myself and the coroner told me that, or emailed him and he told me that the autopsy would be over in an hour.”

“The Sheriff’s Department had gone ahead, down to the autopsy, had it scheduled, without telling us,” Huntsman said. 

Kizzee, 29, was fatally shot about 3:15 p.m. Monday near West 109th Place and South Budlong Avenue. 

Earlier in the day, Sheriff Alex Villanueva told NBC4’s John Kadiz Klemack that Huntsman’s office was conducting an independent investigation of the shooting along with the FBI.

“Everything is happening in the right order of events,” Villanueva said.

"Unfortunately there were people five minutes into it already tweeting what they thought about it, had no knowledge of what happened, drives the outrage that's premature," Villanueva said.

Several law enforcement sources told NBC4’s I-Team that the one of the two deputies involved in the shooting was a trainee, and that the trainee had been struck in the face just prior to the gunfire. The second deputy was the trainee’s supervisor and training officer, the sources said. 

One of the attorneys for Kizzee's family says he worries law enforcement will contradict state law as to what was legal when deputies first attempted to make contact with Kizzee.

"Unless the police officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause, a person is allowed to run from police," said Dale Galipo, an attorney for the Kizzee family.

He says deputies had no right to shoot Kizzee in the back as he ran away.

"You can't shoot someone for running away," he said. "In fact, that would be more reason not to shoot someone because that person clearly is not trying to attack the officer, not trying to harm the officer, he's trying to get away from the officer."

"People can come up with reason after reason and they do - to blame black people for our own deaths," said Melina Abdullah, of Black Lives Matter.

Abdullah says it's not uncommon for people to run from police out of fear - a fear she says, is full of merit.

"Police do not represent a sense of safety or reassurance for black people," she said. "No black person I've met in my entire life feels safer when they see a cop on the corner or a police car roll up behind them in traffic. We feel anxious, we feel afraid."

While the sheriff didn't get into any specifics, he said the deputies involved are currently in the interview process and he said he grieves with the community of Westmont, where deadly crimes are on the rise.

"The crime rate in Westmont, the homicide rates itself, that place is known as death alley for a reason," he said.

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