The family of Jose de La Trinidad, a 36 year-old Los Angeles man killed by LAPD officers, is requesting an FBI probe into the circumstances surrounding his death.
The incident occurred on Nov 10 after officers attempted to pull over a car driven by De La Trinidad’s older brother. He sped off, while De La Trinidad pled for him to stop. De La Trinidad was let out of the car, and was shot shortly thereafter by officers. An eyewitness stated that she saw De La Trinidad with his hands behind his head just before he was shot. Officials have claimed the officers saw De La Trinidad reach for his waist and assumed he had a weapon.
The family’s attorney, Luis Carrillo, said the witness heard the older brother’s car screech to a stop and then watched Jose de la Trinidad get out of the vehicle.
“When they told him to stop, his hands went up behind his head and he kept them there,” the witness told a private investigator working for Carrillo, according to a transcript of interview notes read to The Times.
Carrillo said the witness, whom he did not identify, was pressured to change her story by sheriff’s deputies who were going door-to-door that night looking for information on the shooting.
“It’s the classic ‘He was reaching for his waistband’ defense that is used any time an officer shoots an unarmed man,” Carrillo said. “They tried to get her to change her story.”
Sheriff’s officials sharply reject the accusation and said that, as of Monday, they had yet to speak with any witnesses.
“It’s a curious accusation because how can we intimidate people who we have not yet spoken to?” said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman of the Sheriff’s Department.
Despite Carrillo’s claims that uniformed deputies were going door-to-door seeking witness statements the night of the shooting, Whitmore insisted that no witness interviews were conducted that night.
Sheriff’s officials have released few details about the shooting and say the incident will be investigated by multiple agencies, which is standard protocol for deputy-involved shootings.
Officials at the FBI office in Los Angeles said they have not decided wither the accusations merit an investigation.
The driver, who family members believe may have been intoxicated after a night of celebrating, sped off again before crashing his vehicle at the intersection of El Segundo and Avalon boulevards. He ran away but was apprehended by deputies. LA Times, 22 Nov 2012.
The incident comes on the heels of another shooting of an unarmed man at the hands of LAPD officers. Kennedy Garcia, 23, was shot while handcuffed.