A South Los Angeles civil rights activist today asked for a meeting with Sheriff Lee Baca to discuss the shooting death of a 22- year-old man in unincorporated Athens.
“Sheriff Baca, we request an urgent meeting with you to discuss and ensure that a thorough investigation will be conducted into the Player killing and that, if department policies on the use of deadly force were violated, punishment will be imposed on the officers,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote to Baca.
Woodrow Wilson Player III of Los Angeles was fatally shot about 8:45 p.m. Friday in the 11200 block of Berendo Avenue, according to the Sheriff’s Department and the coroner.
Player’s family claimed that, since he was acquitted of murder in December, sheriff’s deputies had been harassing him because of his gang ties. His widow, Tyisha Player, told a Newsreel video crew that her husband, the father of her 1-year-old daughter, was constantly pulled over for no reason, and two weeks ago, deputies went to their home and “tore” the whole house up.
Relatives told the Los Angeles Times that Player was affiliated with the East Coast Crips, served time in prison on a drug charge and was on parole at the time of the shooting.
Tyisha Player told the newspaper that, since his acquittal, Player had been going to and studying for his graduation equivalency diploma.
Sheriff’s Lt. Brent Becker is leading the investigation into the deputy- involved shooting death, a deputy said.
Â Hutchinson and other activists did what Hutchinson called a “civil rights investigation” at the shooting scene near Imperial Highway Saturday by talking to family members of Player and eyewitnesses.
Those witnesses “sharply disputed” the sheriff’s department’s version of events surrounding the shooting, saying Player did not have a gun on his person; did not threaten officers; was shot while running, and that were no orders were given, Hutchinson said in an earlier statement, calling for a federal probe.
Witnesses told Newsreel that Player had been shot at least seven times. Activists said he had been shot eight times in the back.
A coroner’s spokesman today said the gross autopsy had not been completed as of mid-afternoon, and no information was available for release.
“The eyewitness accounts in the Player shooting are so disturbing and conflicting they merit a full fast-track violation probe by the (U.S.) Justice Department,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson also appealed to U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien Saturday afternoon.
Sheriff’s deputies declined to say how many times Player was shot or how many deputies fired their weapons.
According to the deputies with the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau, which largely controls the release of news involving the department, deputies from the Lennox Station were responding to a report of “man with a gun” when they spotted a person in the area that fit the suspect’s description. The suspect was allegedly driving a vehicle.
The deputies made a “felony” traffic stop, but the suspect, later identified as Player, got out of the vehicle and ran, said Deputy Derrick Thompson of SHB.
“The deputies followed the suspect and as they chased him, they saw what they believed to be a weapon in the suspect’s hand,” according to SHB.
In fear of their lives, the deputies opened fire, striking Player, who died at the scene, Thompson said. No deputies were hurt during the incident, he added.
A firearm was found in the vehicle Player was driving, he said. But no weapon was found on or near Player after the shooting, a deputy said.
Since the gun was found in Player’s vehicle and not on his person, or where he was shot, it’s unclear what if anything deputies saw or think they saw in his hand when they opened fire.
A sheriff’s spokesperson told City News the department would not release the recording of the 911–“man with a gun”–call that precipitated the traffic stop.
Player’s father vehemently contradicted the department version of events that led up to the killing. He told a Newsreel crew that his son had just left a nearby gas station and had parked at a liquor store when deputies approached him.
A man who identified himself as Shendall Duncan told the Newsreel crew that someone who appeared to be dressed as an undercover law enforcement officer with the word “sheriff” on the back of his clothing actually shot Player, causing him to fall, and that when he tried to get up, he was shot again.
Coroner’s investigator Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said an autopsy on Player’s body probably would not happen until Monday.
Hutchinson also raised questions today about training related to “the recent rash of deputy involved shootings in East L.A. and Compton.”
“We further want to discuss and clarify the Sheriff’s Department’s policies, procedures and training on the use of deadly force by sheriff’s deputies,” said Hutchinson.
Player’s shooting was one of three deputy-involved shootings this weekend.
At 10:40 p.m. Friday, deputies shot at a 23-year-old man who allegedly pulled a handgun during a traffic stop in the unincorporated community of Florence. The man was not hit by the gunfire and was arrested after a foot chase.
A sheriff’s deputy also wounded an alleged gang member about 9:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1000 block of Townsend Avenue in East Los Angeles, when the man pointed a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol at the deputy, Deputy Rick Pedroza said. The wounded man, who deputies said had an extensive criminal record but refused to name, was expected to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, Pedroza said.