The mother of an unarmed mentally ill black man shot to death by deputies outside a local gym sued Los Angeles County and its sheriff's department Monday, alleging officers lacked proper training and fired on the victim because of his skin color.
Dennis "Todd" Rogers, 41, was shot multiple times on the night of March 8 outside 24-Hour Fitness in the 5000 block of West Slauson Avenue in Ladera Heights, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Rogers, an aspiring actor who had moved to Hollywood in hopes of finding work in the film industry, had been asked to leave the gym, where he was a member, earlier in the evening. He complied, then returned a few hours later, which is when deputies confronted him, the lawsuit alleges.
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Although Rogers suffered from mental health issues, he was not acting aggressively nor did he make any offensive moves against the deputies, who nonetheless attempted to shock him with stun guns, according to the lawsuit.
A representative of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Rogers' mother contends the deputies reacted improperly by shooting to kill rather than attempting to resolve the situation peacefully.
"I filed this lawsuit to find out exactly how and why my son Todd was killed," Janet Williams said. "I want justice for my son, our family, our friends and our community. Like millions of Americans, Todd had a history of mental illness. We need to focus on treating the mentally ill instead of killing them."
The lawsuit accuses the county and its sheriff's department of failing to adequately train and supervise deputies.
"The deputies had the opportunity to make unhurried judgments regarding the tactics to be used in this situation," attorney Peter Morris said.
"Instead, the deputies acted with deliberate indifference to the life of Todd Rogers by shooting him multiple times and killing him."
The complaint seeks unspecified and punitive damages against the unnamed deputies for loss of companionship, and to deter similar conduct in the future.