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Unarmed man killed by deputy in Athens

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
An investigation is under way in Athens Tuesday after a deputy shot and killed an unarmed man. The deputy says he feared the man was reaching for a gun.The shooting occurred just after 10 p.m. Monday in the 1200 block of Poindexter Street between Raymond and Van Buren avenues in Athens.

It started as an investigation into an armed robbery in the Athens area and escalated just after 10 p.m. Darrick Collins's family says he had just finished playing video games in the back yard of his aunt's house on Poindexter Street and was walking his friend to his car to say goodbye.

Jay Johnson says he and Darrick Collins, 36, were talking in the driveway of Collins's house when deputies pulled up and asked what they were doing.

Johnson says Collins went to the back yard and shut the gate, and was shot.

"He [the deputy] basically just looking for somebody to mess with, you know, so that's the main reason why I assumed Darrick, you know, went towards the back," said Johnson. "You know, he didn't want to get messed with like that."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says Johnson and Collins matched the description of two robbery suspects.

"So they approached them. One bolted, one ran from the scene," said Steve Whitmore, L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. spokesman. "They ordered him to halt; he did not. And then he reached for his waistband, apparently, and so, fearing for their safety, one of the deputies fired."

"When he fired the shots, you know, I kind of got low because I didn't know what he was shooting at," said Jay Johnson, who witnessed the incident. Johnson says he was close to the Sheriff's deputies who fired the shots.

Collins, the 36-year-old father of two, was hit at least once. He was transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

No deputies were hurt in the incident, and no weapon was found.

The family is very upset, very distraught at the death of their loved one.

"My little brother's gone, you know, by the police that is supposed to protect us," said Eric Huckaby, Collins' brother. "And they're doing the most shooting, you know, an unarmed person in the back. You know, back in the Western days, you shoot somebody in the back you get hung."

"I just want justice for my son," said Bernastein Huckaby, the shooting victim's mother. "That's what I want. Why they had to shoot him in his back? It's pathetic how they did this. It's senseless. They took my son away from me."

Family members are demanding answers after the unarmed father of two was shot in the back by an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy Monday night.

"They didn't have to do it. They didn't have to do it," said Jean Lawrence, Collins's aunt.

"It's too much coincidental deaths. You tapped into a family that's going to fight," said James Walker, Collins's uncle.

"We need that officer fired from his job. He needs to be charged with murder in the first degree," said Eddie Jones, Los Angeles Civil Rights Association president.

"This investigation will move forward and sooner rather than later there will be an accounting," said Whitmore.

The Sheriff's deputies are now on leave and will undergo counseling, which is routine procedure after a deputy-involved shooting. Multiple investigations are being conducted by the L.A. County Sheriff's Homicide Bureau of Internal Affairs, the Office of Independent Review, and the L.A. County District Attorney's Office.

Family members and friends say Collins was not a gang member. He was not in any trouble. He was going to barber school to better himself and to provide a better life for his family. Now the family is planning his funeral. Eyewitness News Reporter Melissa MacBride contributed to this report.

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