Investigators said Thursday that Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man who they were trying to stop for riding his bicycle on the wrong side of the street after they saw him drop a pistol and then pick it up.
The deputies fired 19 shots at Dijon Kizzee, striking him several times in the chest and at least once in the back, in a case that brought multiple contentious protests by Black Lives Matter activists in south Los Angeles.
The Aug. 31 shooting has attracted nationwide attention against the backdrop of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases of African Americans killed by police around the country.
It also follows the attempted assassination of two deputies nearby in Compton as they sat in their patrol car, though the motive for that shooting has not been determined as a manhunt for the gunman continues.
In releasing new details about the Kizzee shooting at a news conference, Sheriff Alex Villanueva painted a picture of the unincorporated area south of Los Angeles’ downtown where it occurred, Westmont, as one of the roughest in the city. The sheriff indicated the area merited special attention by deputies.
The area of about one square mile has seen 12 homicides through September and 115 arrests of armed people, the majority of them gang members. The Los Angeles Times, Villanueva said, has dubbed it “Death Valley.”
Residents there are trying to survive in a “war zone,” Villanueva said. “We are trying to save lives, plain and simple.”
So when deputies saw Kizzee riding his bicycle on the wrong side of a street, they flipped a U-turn in their cruiser and tried to confront him over the traffic violation, said Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener, head of the homicide bureau.
Though the deputies didn’t know it, Kizzee had previous felony convictions involving guns and narcotics and a restraining order against him. As such, he wasn’t allowed to possess a gun. When he saw the deputies coming for him, according to the deputies’ account, he abandoned the bike and tried to get away on foot.
The deputies pursued and caught up to Kizzee a short distance away on 109th Place.
There, he tussled with a deputy as he held a towel in one hand and jacket in the other. A gun tumbled to the ground, attracting the attention of the deputies, Wegener said. When Kizzee reached down and picked it up, they opened fire. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting was being analyzed from several videos, two of which were shown at the press conference.
“He wanted to get away from deputies. He armed himself with a handgun and this resulted,” Wegener said.
Kizzee’s 9mm semiautomatic pistol was loaded with 15 rounds and had been stolen in a Las Vegas residential burglary, he said.
Seeking to dispel any notion that the gun had been planted by deputies, Wegener said investigators had uncovered a video taken several days before the shooting in which Kizzee is seen brandishing it with its serial numbers visible.
Results of an autopsy are pending. No charges have been brought against the deputies.