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Guatemalan police-shooting victim sues LAPD

September 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The family of a Guatemalan man killed by police in September is suing the city of Los Angeles, claiming his civil rights were violated. Police say he was threatening people with a knife when officers shot him, but witnesses say that's not what happened. That shooting is under investigation.Attorneys for the family of Guatemalan day laborer Manuel Jaminez say they have talked to witnesses who contradict the Los Angeles Police Department's official version of what happened on that day. They say they feel confident that in federal court they can prove that the shooting was not justified. They say Jaminez's rights were violated, as were the rights of his family.

It was the afternoon of September 5 in the Westlake District when 37-year-old Jaminez was reportedly brandishing a knife. According the LAPD, he threatened a pregnant women and refused officers' orders to drop his knife. Jaminez was shot in the head by LAPD Officer Frank Hernandez.

"We're here because we are seeking justice," said attorney Luis Carrillo. "The lawsuit is the first step to achieve justice."

Attorneys for the family of Jaminez outlined their plans Monday to file suit against the LAPD for what they say is an unjustified shooting.

"The evidence will show that the incident did not happen as described by the shooting officer, and that the shooting was unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive," said attorney Dale Galipo.

The shooting sparked several days of violent protests in the Westlake District, as residents accused the LAPD of abusing their power. Police held community meetings where they said Jaminez was armed, intoxicated and a threat to others. But Monday, lawyers for his family say a jury will see things differently.

"The only time you can use deadly force if you feel you are about, at that moment, to be killed," said Galipo. "And we believe the evidence will show that at the moment this happened, the officer was not about to be killed."

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks unspecified damages that would go toward Jaminez's widow and his three children back in Guatemala. Monday, a Guatemalan congressman from the area where Jaminez's family lives in Guatemala spoke briefly at the news conference.

"I'm here to observe," said Clemente Samines. "I'm not here to judge anyone. The law will do that."

A spokesman for the LAPD said the department does not comment on pending litigation, but the investigation into the shooting by the office of the Inspector General is under way. No word yet on when the results of that investigation will be released.


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