The family of a 22-year-old man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies last year following a pursuit in Pico Rivera filed a lawsuit against the county this week, alleging that authorities used unreasonable and excessive force.
Carmelo Pizarro Jr.’s parents, his daughter and his daughter’s mother say that Pizarro was unarmed when deputies opened fire and killed him in front of his house in the early morning hours of July 19.
The family is suing for an unspecified amount in damages based on allegations of wrongful death and excessive force. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, says Pizarro is a victim in a “disturbing trend” of unarmed people being fatally wounded by sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles County.
“Rather than take measures to address the staggering epidemic and wave of such shootings, such as holding the culprits accountable, local authorities have fomented a culture pursuant to which individual deputies and their supervisors look the other way when such shootings take place and when deputies involved fabricate stories that purport to justify the shootings,” the filing states.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
On the morning Pizarro was killed, sheriff’s deputies saw him driving his Mitsubishi Eclipse at Washington and Passons boulevards in Pico Rivera shortly after 1:30 a.m. Deputies suspected he was intoxicated and tried to pull him over, but he sped away, Lt. Joe Mendoza said at the time.
The car eventually crashed into a light post near Eglise Avenue and Bert Street, and Pizarro ran from deputies. One deputy shot at him about a block from the crash site, Mendoza said, but it’s not clear whether he was hit at that time.
Mendoza said Pizarro was initially armed with a handgun but dropped it while running from deputies.
The lawsuit contends that Pizarro was running in “fear of his life,” but surrendered to deputies near his home, where he was shot despite being “visibly unarmed.”
The filing also alleges that deputies did not warn Pizarro that they were going to open fire and did not quickly provide him with medical care after he was wounded. Pizarro was pronounced dead at the scene.