LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two Los Angeles County deputies acted in self-defense and won’t face criminal charges for fatally shooting a Black man they tried to stop for riding a bicycle the wrong direction, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Dijon Kizzee was holding a pistol when he was shot Aug. 31, 2020, according to a review by the Justice System Integrity Division of the county district attorney’s office.
Kizzee, 29, was killed in South Los Angeles after the deputies attempted to stop him for a traffic violation while riding a bike. He dropped the bicycle and ran away, carrying a bundle of clothing that authorities say contained a firearm.
The deputies told investigators they didn’t know there was a gun in the clothes, and they fired at Kizzee after he picked up the handgun when it fell out during a struggle with one of them.
An autopsy found that Kizzee had been struck 16 times by bullets in the front and back. Attorneys for the family have said witnesses described a volley of shots being fired as he lay on the ground, although an autopsy didn’t indicate the position of his body when he was shot.
His death sparked protests in South Los Angeles.
In a Nov. 10 memo, the DA’s office said it had concluded that deputies Christian Morales and Michael Garcia “reasonably believed, based on the totality of the circumstances, that force was necessary to defend against a threat of death when they initially fired their weapons.”
The memo also said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court that the deputies’ final shots weren’t fired in defense of themselves or others.
“My heart goes out to Mr. Kizzee’s family for the loss of their loved one,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Tuesday.
Attorneys for Kizzee’s family have questioned why he was stopped in the first place, calling it an example of “biking while Black” in a community of color.
Kizzee’s family has filed a $35 million claim against the county, which is often a precursor to a lawsuit.