$10 million claim filed against city of Los Angeles
Suit alleges LAPD used excessive deadly force
A $10 million dollar claim has been filed against the city of Los Angeles alleging that police opened fire and killed Maurice Leroy Cox, Jr., 37, who was seen running from his pick up truck on the evening of March 1.
Cox, whose pickup truck crashed into a palm tree, was allegedly chased and gunned down by police after exiting his vehicle. The claim alleges that Cox was fired at by LAPD officers nearly 30 times after exiting his car near Crenshaw Boulevard and 57th Street.
An official statement from the LAPD website states that when officers approached Cox�s vehicle, they noticed Cox reaching for the glove compartment. According to police reports, Cox told police to move away from the vehicle or he would kill them. Police said that Cox barricaded himself in his truck and refused to exit. After exiting his vehicle 20 minutes later, police said Cox pointed what appeared to be a weapon. A chase between Cox and the police ensued which resulted in Cox�s shooting death.
A news conference to announce the claim was held Monday at the Beverly Hills law office of Attorney Carl E. Douglas. The claim, filed for Cox�s wife, Laura Michelle Cox, lists wrongful death, assault and battery, negligence, conspiracy, violation of federal and state civil rights and anti-discrimination acts.
Alex Alonso, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California, videotaped the incident which Douglas aired for the news media. At one point the tape becomes jumpy as the videographer runs down the street as he captures the officers and Cox with his camera.
�We are seeking witnesses to come forward so we can find out the truth of what happened that night,� said Douglas. �I am filing a claim of damages to put the city on notice,� said Douglas, who claims that Cox was the victim of excessive use of force by the police.
According to witnesses, Cox began walking backwards after exiting his vehicle. �I interviewed two witnesses who said that Cox exited his car with nothing in his hands,� said Cox. �The videotape shows Mr. Cox outside his vehicle walking backwards�he never made a threatening gesture.�
Douglas allegess that one or more LAPD officers opened fire on Cox with their handguns, striking him two or three times in his upper torso.
Police are also claiming that the fatal shooting was the result of �suicide by cop.� But Douglas claims the shooting was a case of �contagious fire,� with one officer firing after hearing another do so.
�Cox never went toward officers. He ran away when they fired. I heard about 17 or 18 different gunshots on camera,� said Douglas. �The officers chase him and then stand over his fallen body, leaning down to handcuff him. Then you see other officers approaching.�
After Cox is shot, Douglas said that several officers are depicted on the video holding their flashlights and searching for a weapon on the tape. �The police said they recovered a cigarette lighter that Cox was holding at the time of the incident, not a weapon,� said Douglas.
Douglas, who said that the altercation between Cox and the police was one of the �worst he�s ever seen,� said he was appalled by the LAPD�s conduct.
�They turned Crenshaw Boulevard into a shooting gallery, much like you�d see in a video arcade and Cox became the target that night,� said Douglas. �People were seen walking on the streets. I really doubt that there would have been in indiscriminate use of deadly force if this incident had happened in another neighborhood like Westwood.�
Douglas said that his office is searching for two more witnesses who videotaped the incident but left after the shooting. The attorney said he is hoping that the individuals will come forward and contact his offices with the additional videotape.
The videotape also depicts one of the police officers waving away Alonso as he filmed the incident. �I understand that the videotape doesn�t show everything, but what I do see is a dangerous risk in our community and a man whose only crime was being involved in a traffic collision,� said Douglas. �We hope that witnesses who saw the shooting will come forward.�
At the news conference, blown up photographs depicted bullet holes fired at the scene. �There were bullet holes found near the tops of buildings and in trees near Slauson Avenue. Officers were shooting all over,� said Douglas.
The attorney said that the altercation between Cox and the LAPD was a graphic example of excessive fire and use of deadly force. �The policy of the LAPD is that they are not privileged to use deadly force unless an officer feels his life is in danger,� Douglas asserted. �Five police officers have been identified who were involved in the shooting. They are white, Hispanic and black,� said Douglas.
�I am greatly disturbed by this incident,� said Douglas. �I have been suing police officers for 20 years and I have not seen such a shocking display of deadly force. This excessive use of force goes against the teachings of the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies in this country. There must be substantial training of police officers in the use of deadly force,� said Douglas. �A traffic collision should not be punishable by death.�