The family of a teenager fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in February has filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming that deputies used excessive force and then accused the dead teen of having a weapon to justify the shooting.
In the three months since the shooting, attorneys for the parents and 1-year-old daughter of Anthony Weber said the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has not released additional information about the incident, including the 911 tapes, dispatch recordings or the identities of the deputies. Sheriff’s officials have placed the results of an autopsy on hold, blocking the coroner’s office from releasing information.
“The aim of this lawsuit is to uncover and expose the code of silence in this case and reveal the true facts of what happened,” Gregory Yates, an attorney for the family, said at a news conference Wednesday. Yates said attorneys filed the lawsuit to gain more information about the shooting. “The family doesn’t know. They want to know.”
After the shooting, the department said that Anthony, 16, had a gun that may have been removed from the crime scene. His family denies that the teenager had a weapon.
“Anthony was a beloved son, grandson, father and brother,” Yates said. “No gun was found at the scene and that’s because Anthony did not have a gun at the time he was shot.”
In the lawsuit filed against the county Tuesday, attorneys said that the teenager’s hands were “visibly empty” at the time of the shooting, and that the department did not provide proper medical aid to Anthony, who was “bleeding profusely.”
Sheriff’s officials declined to address specific claims in the lawsuit or release additional details.
In a statement, the department said: “It is frustrating for our Department to see that there is a growing body of evidence in this case that is undeniable, and yet, to protect the integrity of the investigation, to continue to maintain open channels of communication for more potential witnesses to come forward, we must stay silent.”
The incident began on Feb. 4 about 8 p.m., when two deputies responded to a report of a young man in blue jeans and a black shirt pointing a handgun at a driver in the 1200 block of West 107th Street, according to the department. The driver, according to partial audio of the dispatch call, said he feared for his life.
While on foot, deputies encountered a 16-year-old boy who matched the description. They spotted a handgun tucked in his pants, according to statements by the Sheriff’s Department.
When they ordered him not to move, the teen ignored the deputies’ commands and took off running into an apartment complex known as a gang hangout, sheriff’s Capt. Christopher Bergner has said previously.
After entering a courtyard, the young man turned toward the deputies and one of them fired about 10 shots. The teenager was struck “several times” in the upper body, the department said in a statement.
After the shooting, the department said, neighbors immediately flooded the courtyard and the two deputies called for help to control the crowd as it swelled to 30 or 40 people. Deputies believe the gun went missing during the commotion, Bergner has said.
A meeting meant to quell tensions in the community days later had to be cut short, after a comment made by a sheriff’s official prompted outrage. Community activists called on California’s attorney general to independently investigate the shooting and residents marched in the neighborhood to demand justice.
The teenager’s mother, Demetra Johnson, said that her son, who went by “A.J.,” was a loving person who managed to form a bond with each member of his large family. Johnson said that his daughter, Violet, was the “greatest love of his life.”
“It brought me so much joy to watch how affectionate and protective he was as a young father,” she said. “He demonstrated the maturity and lovingness that most grown men didn’t show as a dad.”
Johnson said her son had “dreams for the future,” and wanted to see his daughter grow up.
“I just never got to say goodbye,” she said.
Anthony’s father, John Weber, stood by holding his son’s gray baseball mit. He said that his son helped him build the seven-bedroom home he shared with his family.
“Every time I walk down the halls, I think about the boards he helped me nail together,” he said.
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