LOS ANGELES — Lawyers for an unarmed black man shot dead by sheriff’s deputies are expected to announce June 20 that they’re taking steps to sue county officials in connection with the man’s death.
Attorney Brian T. Dunn, who represents the family of 24-year-old Ryan Twyman, said he is “filing for damages against the municipality, which is the precursor to a lawsuit.”
“We have more than enough to bring this case,” said Dunn, an attorney with The Cochran Firm. “At this point, we’re still waiting on something definitive from the department as to why this occurred.”
Twyman, a father of three, was sitting in a vehicle with another person in an apartment complex parking lot near East 132nd and South San Pedro on June 6 when deputies said they made contact with the men, according to a statement released by the sheriff’s department.
“During the contact, a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” the statement said. Officials later acknowledged that no weapon was found at the scene. It remains unclear what prompted the shooting.
Sheriff’s officials later released a statement expressing condolences to Twyman’s friends and family, but provided no additional details about the shooting.
“We understand many in the community are upset by Mr. Twyman’s passing and we empathize with their concerns about his untimely death,” it said. “When a deputy-involved shooting occurs, multiple independent investigations immediately begin at the scene, including an investigation by the County District Attorney’s Office. Public safety of all Los Angeles County residents remains the department’s number one priority.”
Dunn said the sheriff department’s release “didn’t say anything.”
“There are a lot of unanswered questions we really would like to get answers for,” he said. “We don’t know why they were there. No conceptualization of even why they had their guns out. The occupants of the car weren’t armed.”
“They are usually very quick to say why the circumstances of a shooting goes down because they usually have a self-serving statement,” he added. “We’ve received nothing.”
Witnesses who gathered at the scene said that Twyman was shot up to 37 times, a number that has yet to be confirmed by sheriff’s officials.
The shooting, meanwhile, has drawn concern and outrage from activists and civil rights groups across the nation, including the NAACP and the National Association for Equal Justice in America (NAEJA).
Local activist Najee Ali, who represents both the Los Angeles and Compton branches of the NAACP, called on County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and other board members to lead efforts to get more details about the shooting.
In a prepared statement, Ridley-Thomas said he has been “closely monitoring this case as well as other shootings in our community.”
“Not only do I want to ensure justice is served, I also want to help families devastated by the loss of a loved one, as well as witnesses to such violence, receive the timely communication they deserve and the compassionate help they need for their grief and trauma,” he said.
NAEJA President & CEO Royce Esters held a prayer vigil in front of the Compton Sheriff’s Station on June 18 to “bring attention to the obvious excessive deadly force used by sheriff’s deputies” in Twyman’s death.
“They had no reason to shoot that boy. They don’t shoot white people like that. They talk to them,” he said. “We’re very tired of this. Every time we turn around, another one of our black boys is being shot and killed.”
Esters said he plans to address the Board of Police Commissioners on June 25 to discuss the hiring practices of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
“Their hiring practices are important,” said Esters. “They don’t hire enough African Americans. Why do they shoot blacks all the time? It has to be a hate crime.”
On an Instagram post, hip-hop artist The Game wrote:
“Another young black man taken away from his children at the hands of the Los Angeles sheriff’s department. Under no circumstances should anyone unarmed be shot 37 times. This is a sick pattern & happens way too often these days. A father, a son, a brother, a human; 37 bullets & for what?!?!? What’s the explanation?”
Dunn, the Twyman family attorney, said the June 20 news conference also may be an opportunity for Daimeon Laffell — who was in the passenger seat at the time of the shooting — to tell his version of what happened. Laffell was unharmed.
Dunn said, meanwhile, that he’ll do all he can to keep this shooting death in the public eye.
“This case won’t be swept under the rug,” he said. “This is a case that people are going to know about.”