A 22-year-old man was shot to death Friday by police officers who say the man aimed a shotgun at them, but their account was disputed by a family member who said he witnessed the incident.
Two uniformed officers riding in an unmarked car heard gunshots about 8 p.m. and drove into an alley off Jacquelyn Lane, where they saw Jose Manuel Rios, 22, walking with the weapon in his hand, police said. He turned around and pointed the shotgun at the car, Lt. Dan Johnson said.
The uniformed officers tried to stop Rios by knocking him over with the car at a slow speed. They said Rios fell onto the hood of the car and pointed the shotgun at the officer in the passenger seat, who opened the door, leaned out and fired his service weapon at Rios, Johnson said. The officers were not identified by police.
Rios fell to the ground and was pronounced dead at the scene.
But Rios' 23-year-old cousin Alejandro Flores said Saturday that he witnessed the shooting and gave a different version of the incident.
"They shot my cousin when he had his gun pointed to the ground," said Flores, who said he was walking in the alley with Rios when the shooting occurred.
The family does not dispute that Rios was carrying a sawed-off shotgun when he encountered the officers. Family members said Rios, one of nine children, had obtained the gun about three weeks ago to protect his family against threats made by the boyfriend of a relative. They said he had been working as a parking lot attendant in Newport Beach and stayed out of trouble.
Rios had been fighting with his girlfriend Friday night and decided to take a walk around his apartment complex in the 17000 block of Jacquelyn Lane with Flores, family members said. During the 15-minute walk, Flores said, his cousin fired a shot into the air out of frustration over his relationship problems.
Flores said he and Rios did not realize the men in the car were police officers. Neither officer shouted a warning, Flores said.
"They shot him three times in the chest, then they hit me and told me not to say anything," Flores said Saturday as he stood in the alley where the shooting took place.
"I don't know why they did it," Flores added. "Maybe they were scared because he had the gun and thought he was going to shoot them. He wouldn't have. I feel very sad with a pain in my heart. We were like brothers."
Police on Saturday would not comment on Flores' remarks. As with all officer-involved shootings, the Orange County Sheriff's Department is investigating.
Fresh flowers had been placed by relatives at the shooting site Saturday and pieces of yellow police tape were still lying on the ground.
"They just left my cousin's blood there," said Leticia Hererra, 15. "My uncle washed the blood off of the ground this morning."
Rios' 51-year-old mother, Julia Rios-Lopez, said she wants to see the two officers fired "so they can't do this to someone else."
"I want justice," said the mother, her eyes red from crying. "It's very hard to take the police to court because they are the police. But I'm going to try."
Rios' 23-year-old brother, Francisco, said the family does not believe the shooting will be properly investigated or that the officer's involved will be punished.
"If I killed someone, I would have to go to jail," he said. "That's not going to happen to the police."