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Civil Rights Suit Filed Over Shooting Death : Courts: Family of Bakersfield man who was killed by off-duty IRS agent seeks $30 million in damages.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The family of a Bakersfield man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Internal Revenue Service agent following a freeway dispute in Arleta has filed a civil rights lawsuit.

The legal action filed in U.S. District Court stems from the July 16, 1993, death of Mickey Jay Smith, 21, who was fatally shot by an IRS agent who was later identified by police as Paul Hamilton Davis.

Filed last month on behalf of Brandi R. Griffith, Smith’s girlfriend, and the couple’s young daughter, Ashley Nicole Griffith, the civil lawsuit seeks $30 million in general and punitive damages. It alleges deprivation of civil rights, negligence, battery and wrongful death.

The lawsuit also alleges that Davis was acting within the scope of his job as an IRS agent and that the IRS and the federal government, co-defendants in the suit, should have known that Davis had a propensity for violence.

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“It’s absolutely outrageous that a trained officer used deadly force on this young man,” said James De Simone, an attorney representing Griffith and her daughter.

Jim Asperger, an attorney representing Davis, said his client acted in self-defense and was protecting the public from a “clear danger.”

An IRS spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment.

The case also is being reviewed by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office. Still pending is a preliminary civil rights investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.

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The incident started shortly after 7:30 p.m. on the Golden State Freeway. Smith was riding in a rental truck driven by his friend, Chris Stayton, according to police and coroner reports. During a lane change, Stayton swerved in front of a car allegedly driven by Davis.

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Stayton’s account, contained in an LAPD preliminary homicide investigation report, is that Smith began taunting Davis, who followed Stayton and Smith off the Branford Avenue exit. Both vehicles stopped along the side of the road, near an industrial complex.

Stayton said Smith got out of the truck shouting obscenities and repeatedly shoved Davis, who subsequently shot and killed Smith.

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Stayton and other witnesses told police they did not realize Davis was a law enforcement officer until after the shooting, when police arrived and the agent, dressed in business attire, flashed his badge at officers.

Smith was unarmed at the time of the shooting, according to police. A corner’s toxicology report found that his blood alcohol level, at .18%, was more than twice the legal driving limit of .08%


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