Los Angeles

Years Later, Parents Still Mourn Unarmed Son Killed by LAPD Officer

Mohammad Chaudhry was killed after encountering officers near a Hollywood apartment building.

"We need justice for him. Then I can sleep."

Mohammad Chaudhry sighed heavily as he remembered his son, Usman, and the circumstances of his death at the hands of an LAPD officer in March 2008.

A civil jury found that 21-year-old Usman Chaudhry had been the victim of excessive force when former officer Joseph Cruz shot and killed him.

Cruz and his partner had encountered Chaudhry, who suffered from autism, lying near some bushes at a Hollywood apartment building.

Cruz claimed Chaudhry had lunged at him with a knife, but the family's attorney said testimony didn't support that.

"The shooter's partner said he never saw Usman holding a knife," said attorney Olu Orange. "He also said he never saw Usman 'advance' on the shooter."

As is often the case with officer-involved shootings, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that the shooting was justified.


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And, although the civil jury awarded the Chaudhrys $1.7 million, they have yet to collect a dime. Orange said the city of Los Angeles has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit court.

Sitting with the Chaudhrys in their Bellflower home nearly six years later, it's clear that the pain they felt is still fresh.

Like many survivors of officer-involved shootings, the loss of their loved one is made worse by the belief that it came at the hands of police, and that the victim was not a threat to the officer.

Usman's mother, Rukhsana Chaudhry, choked back tears as she thought of her son's final moments.

"The way he left," she says, "That's the most thing (that) hurts me. When I heard he got four bullets. I always think he is getting the bullet and falling down."

Chaudhry said it's as if she can feel each bullet piercing her son's body, and hear him crying out for her, alone and dying.

Sarah Zheng and Julia Bakerink contributed to this report.

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