Facing a lawsuit and video from multiple angles of deputies fatally shooting a man holding a knife, embattled Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villaneuva on Friday night said he had “grave concerns” over the death.
David Ordaz Jr. was fatally shot by deputies March 14 outside his family’s home in East Los Angeles. His family released cellphone video of the incident when it announced its lawsuit against Los Angeles County and four deputies on Thursday.
The suit says Ordaz was “not in his right mind” when his sister called 911 for help and to report he had “a regular kitchen knife” and was on methamphetamine and suicidal. The deputies “used unjustifiable force” to cause the 34-year-old’s death, the suit said.
It claims wrongful death and violation of California civil rights, which protect people targeted for violence as a result of a “medical condition.”
Four deputies “carelessly managed, maintained, operated, controlled and supervised” the incident, it said.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on Friday released deputy body camera video on the incident and Villanueva said that one of the law enforcement officers involved had been relieved of duty.
“I want to clearly state I have grave concerns regarding this deputy-involved shooting,” the sheriff said.
The shooting is under investigation both internally and by the district attorney. The sheriff said he’d share results of the inquiry with the FBI.
The deputies’ union, Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, did not immedialtey return a request for comment Saturday.
The confrontation started when Hilda Pedroza called 911 and asked “if you could guide me on what I can do to help” her brother, according to the sheriff’s video.
In a statement Friday, Gabriela Hernandez said that her brother “had hit an emotional low point. Out of desperation, we called 911.”
According to the sheriff’s video, deputies were dispatched with a mental evaluation team. Before the shooting deputies at the scene again requested the mental evaluation team, according to the sheriff’s video.
Deputies got Ordaz to come out of a parked car and tried to talk him into dropping the knife. At one point, a deputy suggested that less-lethal rounds be deployed, and someone opened fire, apparently with a “stun bag,” according to the sheriff’s video.
After he was struck, Ordaz is seen in the sheriff’s video stumbling toward deputies and family members. Shots were fired and he can be seen falling to the ground in the fetal position, his back to officers.
Gunfire continued after Ordaz was on the ground, and at least 12 rounds in total were fired, according to a county coroner’s report provided by the family’s legal representative, the law firm of Alan A. Ahdoot.
The suit said Ordaz was “hit with non-lethal rounds, turned to flee down the sidewalk and did not launch at the Sheriff’s Deputies. In fact, the coroner’s report shows that all of the bullets except two struck him on the back.”
Villanueva has been under fire for previous comments after civilian deaths by deputies and criticized for his response to decades’ worth of reporting on deputies who have formed law enforcement gangs.
It’s not clear why the department withheld video of the March incident until Friday. It described the release as part of its “Transparency Promise” program.
“Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones,” Villanueva said as part of his statement Friday.
He also said Ordaz was “under the influence of drugs and wanted to commit ‘suicide by cop.'”
The department said that Ordaz had been convicted of drug possession and DUI.
His daughter, Emily Ordaz, said in a statement Friday, “I wish I could tell him how great of a father he was. I wish I could tell him that we’re all human, that it’s OK to struggle with depression and anxiety, that it’s ok to struggle with addiction.”
“Unfortunately,” she said, “law enforcement doesn’t see it the way I do. Instead they used my dad’s mental illness against him, they made it seem like he deserved to be killed.”