Dijon Kizzee was ‘trying to find his way’ before being killed by L.A. deputies, relatives say
Dijon Kizzee loved riding bicycles — anything with wheels, really, his uncle Anthony Johnson recalled. As a youth, he would build go-karts and used to drive his mother crazy with his passion for mini motorcycles.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising, Johnson said, that 29-year-old Kizzee was on a bike Monday afternoon when he was flagged for an alleged vehicle code violation in a South Los Angeles neighborhood. He tried to flee and subsequently was fatally shot by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies.
The shooting has spurred anger and nightly protests in the Westmont neighborhood. Many view Kizzee as another victim of police violence against Black people amid the national public outcry over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Sheriff’s Department hasn’t indicated what vehicle codes Kizzee allegedly violated. Officials have said deputies pursued Kizzee as he dropped his bicycle and ran. They said deputies opened fire after he “made a motion toward” a gun that fell to the ground when he dropped a jacket he had been carrying.
Family members said that he lived in Lancaster and was visiting friends in L.A. They recall a family-oriented man who was hit hard by the death of his mother as a young adult and had been working on finding his way in life.
Neighbors who witnessed the killing said deputies kept firing at Kizzee after he had fallen to the ground. Attorneys representing the family said Wednesday that he was shot at 15 times.
“Who knew this would hit our home? Who knew this would happen to us?” an anguished aunt of Kizzee told several dozen protesters gathered Tuesday evening at the spot where he was killed. “They killed my nephew in cold blood. They killed my nephew.”
Kizzee, an unemployed plumber, grew up in South L.A. and later moved with his mother and younger brother to the Antelope Valley to escape violence in the area.
“They moved to get away from the crime — a lot of gang shootings were happening,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a resident of Palmdale, lived a short drive from Kizzee. He described him as someone who was generous with his relatives and friends, recalling how Kizzee had recently insisted that Johnson use his car as if it were his own.
When his mother died in 2011 due to health issues, Kizzee was left grieving and trying to care for his younger brother.
“He was a momma’s boy for sure,” Johnson said. “There’s really two Dijons. The Dijon before she passed away and the Dijon after she passed away.”
The L.A. County sheriff’s deputies involved in Dijon Kizzee’s fatal shooting are identified as a trainee and a supervising officer.
By that point, Kizzee had a social life in both the Antelope Valley and L.A., often going back and forth to visit family and friends.
He was convicted for various crimes in L.A. and Kern counties over the last decade and served two terms in state prison totaling more than a year between 2016 and 2019, according to officials. The prison terms related to charges including evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly, as well as possession of a firearm by a felon or addict.
“He was trying to work on himself, but that was definitely an obstacle,” Johnson said. “He was still trying to find his way.”
Kizzee received his high school diploma in the L.A. County jail system, said Shanley Rhodes, a principal at the time for Five Keys Charter School, which runs higher education programs for inmates.
When Rhodes heard about Kizzee’s death, she immediately recalled a good-natured man who put in extra work to graduate on time, studying independently after taking several hours of classes during the day.
“It’s hard to stay motivated, it’s hard to have hope, it’s hard to look forward when you’re incarcerated,” she said. “It takes a really strong person to say, ‘I’m going to keep my eyes forward.’ That was all of our students, and that was certainly Dijon.”
A grainy but graphic video obtained by The Times shows a struggle between Kizzee and deputies before he tries to run away and deputies gun him down.
In the weeks before he died, Kizzee had been coping with more personal loss.
Kevin “Twin” Orange, a gang intervention worker, said he ran into Kizzee about three weeks ago in South L.A. while visiting the family of a man who recently died. When Orange got to the family home, Kizzee was there and gave him a hug. The recent loss was one in a string for Kizzee, Orange said. Two other people that Kizzee knew had been killed recently in the Westmont community.
“He said: ‘I just can’t take it. It’s too much,’” Orange said.
Etta Clark, Kizzee’s grandmother who lives in Lancaster, said Kizzee called her “Granny” and would often check on her.
“He was always very kind, always a loving child, very respectful to me,” she said, recalling how he’d offer to help her with yard work without being prompted.
Her son and Kizzee’s uncle, Aaron Clark, a hip-hop artist who goes by “Pro,” said that Kizzee would sometimes come to his home and they would sit in his studio talking about his music. They once played with the idea of writing a song based on the loss of Clark’s brother, who was killed years ago, and the incarceration of Kizzee’s father, Edwin.
The fatal shooting by deputies of Dijon Kizzee spurs new outrage in Westmont neighborhood.
Despite his absence for much of Kizzee’s life, he would speak to his son frequently.
“He gave his son advice, tried to help him learn from his mistakes,” Clark said. “He was a very big part of his life, even though he wasn’t there physically a lot of the time.”
Clark and Kizzee would sometimes talk about what it meant to be a Black man in the Antelope Valley, which has a history of racism, harassment and discrimination by law enforcement.
“As Black men, we are profiled every day,” Clark said. “We sit in our cars at the light, and we’re profiled. He was on his bike. What threat does a man on a bike really cause? He spoke about being profiled because he was.
“No matter what was going on, he didn’t deserve to be gunned down in the streets like that,” he said. “We’re going to miss Dijon terribly.”
Times researcher Scott Wilson and staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian and Nicole Santa Cruz contributed to this report.
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