Lead Story West Edition

Teen’s family files wrongful death suit against county

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The parents and the surviving daughter of a black teenager killed in a deputy-involved shooting in February have filed a $10 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Los Angeles County and 10 sheriff’s department employees, the family’s attorneys announced May 2.

Deputies shot and killed 16-year-old Anthony Weber on Feb. 4 during a foot chase about 8:20 p.m. near the 1200 block of 107th Street in the Westmont neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Following the encounter, deputies said they spotted a handgun tucked into the teen’s pants, but investigators never recovered a weapon.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the boy was a known gang member who was shot at an apartment complex known for gang activity.

“Anthony Weber committed no crime,” said attorney Gregory A. Yates, who is representing Weber’s family in the complaint filed May 1 in Los Angeles federal court, alleging negligence and wrongful death. “He was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone. These deputies acted as judge, jury and executioner when they fired multiple shots at an innocent kid.”

The 22-page complaint, which seeks at least $10 million in damages, does not name the 10 defendants, including four sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene of the shooting, two supervising officers and four managerial or policymaking employees of the department.

In a statement issued May 2, the sheriff’s department said it was “frustrating” that it could not comment on the evidence while the case is pending.

“Justice is not achieved in seconds, minutes or hours but during months of a painstaking, detailed process of getting the facts right beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement said. “Evidence is not opinion. This is what makes justice worth fighting for, and waiting for. We have watched as individuals hurl allegations or immediately assume that deputy-involved shootings and the aftermath are signs of police misconduct.”

The department added that “there is a growing body of evidence in this case that is undeniable, and yet, to protect the integrity of the investigation, to continue to maintain open channels of communication for more potential witnesses to come forward, we must stay silent.”

“We too must wait for the months of evidence testing, re-testing and examination by numerous county professionals which is taking place under the oversight of L.A. County’s Office of Inspector General which has complete access to evidence and witness statements,” the statement added. “The day will come when the evidence will speak for us because, in the best system of justice in the world, it is the evidence that must matter the most.”

The lawsuit alleges that as the teenager bled profusely, deputies failed to call for medical help in a timely manner or render medical aid.

The plaintiffs allege that the boy was deprived of his right against unreasonable and excessive force as guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment. The family’s lawyers also contend the decedent suffered extreme mental and physical pain before losing his life.

“Anthony was a devoted, loving son and young father whose life was tragically cut short,” said co-lead counsel Dale K. Galipo. “We intend to prove that under the color of authority, the deputies engaged in excessive force and violated the young man’s constitutional rights.”

Deputies were called to the area because a young man was reportedly pointing a handgun at a motorist, sheriff’s Deputy Wally Bracks said. Arriving deputies saw the suspect had a handgun tucked into his waistband, Bracks said.

The suspect allegedly ran from deputies, who pursued him on foot. During the chase, the boy turned toward the deputies and one fired at him, striking him several times in the upper body, according to the sheriff’s department, which said no handgun was found.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the courtyard of the apartment complex where the boy was shot, and which investigators say is a known gang hangout, “was flooded with people who were trying to get to the subject and the deputies,” according to a sheriff’s statement released following the
shooting.

About 30 to 40 residents of the area became irate and confronted deputies regarding the shooting, according to Deputy Sara Rodriguez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

“The deputies immediately requested medical assistance and additional personnel in an effort to calm the citizens and prevent them from reaching the subject,” she said. “While waiting for additional deputies and trying to control the situation, it is believed that someone may have been able to gain possession of the gun and take it.”

No video footage of the shooting and aftermath has been located.

According to the sheriff’s department, a witness reported hearing deputies say, “Don’t reach for it,” presumably referring to a gun, though the witness did not see one.