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Activists demand answers from Sheriff Baca

July 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Civil rights activists are meeting with L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Tuesday at sheriff's headquarters in Monterey Park to discuss a rash of deputy-involved shootings. Deputies have been involved in four shooting incidents in just over a week, including two that turned deadly. Local activists are now demanding answers from the sheriff.

The most controversial of the shootings was on Friday night in unincorporated Athens, where deputies shot and killed 22-year-old Woodrow Player Jr.

Deputies say they were responding to a report of a man waving a gun in the area. When deputies stopped Player in his car he took off running. L.A. County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore says Player pointed a "dark object" at the deputies during the chase. He said the deputies believed it was a gun and opened fire the second time he pointed the object at them, killing Player.

Sheriff's officials say the two deputies mistook Player's cell phone for a gun when they fatally shot him in the back while he was running away. Investigations say they recovered the phone in the alley where he was shot. They also found a loaded gun in his car.

The names of the deputies have not been released.

An internal investigation looking into the shooting is now under way. Local activists are also calling for a federal investigation into the incident.

A second deputy-involved shooting Friday left a suspect wounded in Florence.

The latest shooting was Saturday night in East Los Angeles. Sheriff's officials say a suspect pointed a gun at deputies during a foot chase. Deputies opened fire and injured the suspect.

About a week ago, deputies shot and killed 16-year-old Avery Cody Jr. in Compton. Sheriff's officials say the teenager pointed a gun at deputies, forcing them to open fire.

Civil rights leaders say they want a guarantee of a thorough investigation and punishment if deputies violated department policies on deadly force.

"We're really concerned about a broader view. Namely, what are the policies, what are the procedures on the use of deadly force?" said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a civil rights activist. "Now unfortunately over the last week or so we've had not only Woodrow Player, but we've also had other shootings."

Activists are calling for the Office of Independent Review to be part of the investigation into the shootings. Sheriff's officials say that the independent investigative body is already involved.

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