Video Provided by Sheriffs Directly Contradicts Their Own Account of Killing of Dijon Kizzee
8:27 PM PDT on September 18, 2020
Yesterday, while clarifying his narration of events during the Los Angeles County Sheriff's (LASD) press conference on the August 31 killing of 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, Captain Kent Wegener doubled down on the new claim that Kizzee had not only picked up his gun after struggling with the first officer, but had pointed it at both deputies - both of whom are now also said to have seen it fall to the ground with Kizzee's clothing - prompting both to open fire.
"Both [deputies] said [Kizzee] put his hand on the gun, picked it up," Wegener said. "And the second deputy didn't even recognize it as a gun until it came up and he saw the barrel pointing at him."
It's a genuinely shocking claim, given that for the past few weeks, Kizzee's gun was said to be just about everywhere except in his hands.
But it's also shocking because it's demonstrably untrue: in the videos provided by the Sheriff's department, Kizzee never lifts his arm to point a gun at either of the deputies. And the gun itself is seen skittering to the ground and well out of reach nearly two seconds before the second deputy even draws his weapon. Meaning that that deputy fired at least 10 rounds at an unarmed man who was already down.
When news first broke of the shooting on 109th Place, Kizzee - who had run from officers when they attempted to stop him as he cycled up Budlong on the wrong side of the street - was said to have "produced" the gun.
The gun was later said to have been spotted while tangled up in clothing of Kizzee's that had fallen to the ground, "at which time a deputy-involved shooting occurred."
At one point, Kizzee was said to have "reached for" it after it fell to the ground.
In the intervening weeks, bystander videos have helped fill in some of the details.
Doorbell cameras had captured the sound of 19 shots being fired - a burst of four or five, a pause, a barrage of a dozen more shots, and then a final few deliberate ones. And grainy security footage had captured the moment a deputy had caught up to Kizzee on 109th, scuffled with him as Kizzee's hands were in the air, engaged in some kind of tug-of-war involving Kizzee's clothing, opened fire on Kizzee as he stumbled away, and been joined by the second deputy a few seconds later, who then also opened fire.
Wegener had a clearer version of that security footage for reporters yesterday (seen below), as well as a new narrative. Please watch with care, the footage is graphic.
Kizzee had "briefly" raised his hands when approached by the deputy on 109th, according to Wegener early on in the press conference. But Kizzee quickly "lowered his hands and struggled with the deputy, ultimately throwing punches into the deputy's face. During the struggle, Kizzee's pistol fell to the ground between him and the deputy. At this moment, the deputies saw the gun and drew their pistols as Kizzee stopped, bent over, reached back, and picked up the pistol. Each deputy fired at Kizzee, striking him several times in the torso, causing the gun to again fall to the ground. Kizzee fell to the ground and a combined total of 19 rounds were fired." [Emphasis added to highlight new information.]
When introducing the above video a few minutes later, Wegener repeated much of the same information, but added a few more details to the moment Kizzee reached for the gun. "At one point Kizzee's pistol drops to the ground. He bends over, reaches, picks up the gun, and is shot as he stands with the gun in hand. You will see that the deputy struggling with Kizzee does not arm himself until Kizzee bends down to pick up the gun he dropped. The second deputy joins the first, and the deputy-involved shooting occurs."
LASD's official statement slightly one-ups these versions with the claim that both deputies had seen the gun fall to the ground (they hadn't just spotted it while it was on the ground) and that the shots fired by both deputies were what had ultimately knocked the gun out of "Suspect Kizzee's" hands. It reads, "During the struggle, the handgun Suspect Kizzee was carrying fell to the ground. Seeing the handgun fall, Deputies drew their pistols as Suspect Kizzee stopped, bent over, reached back, and picked up the pistol. Deputies fired and struck him several times, causing the gun to fall again." [Emphasis added to highlight new information.]
Wegener then offers a second, grainier, video, where Kizzee is seen struggling with the first deputy, bending down, spinning around before he is able to fully stand up (presumably after having retrieved the gun), and then falling out of frame. Please note, the footage is grainy but still graphic.
What the sheriffs appear not to have noticed is that the gun is visible skittering to the ground in both of these videos approximately two seconds before the second deputy opens fire. [A black object is seen falling between the second and fifth bars of the white fence (counting from the wall, barely above the bottom bars) at about the 8-9 second mark, above.]
Or perhaps they did notice.
In his closing remarks to reporters, Sheriff Alex Villanueva dismissively waved off questions about the number of shots fired by saying, "If you saw the amount of time it took to fire 19 shots, it was probably in a span of 2 or 3 seconds - the entire shooting. So when you say 19 [shots]...this is not slow motion, you know, Hollywood movie." And when pressed on the fact that the doorbell cameras had registered a pause between the first burst of shots and the last fourteen or so shots fired at Kizzee, Villanueva opted to take refuge in weird science.
"Just recognize that...start to finish, the total time of shots fired is probably two or three seconds. Remember, the brain is going to register information and then make a decision and react to it, so it's not instantaneous that you change your mind and do something different. There's always that lag time between what you see, and then you register it in your brain, and then you decide to do something else, and that comes out to an actual movement of the body."
But he did also say reporters would have to sit down with deputies and go frame by frame if they wanted to know more about why they did what they did.
So let's do that.
First up, the weapon.
A picture of the weapon was provided at the press conference, as were videos of Kizzee with it in his pocket that were retrieved from Kizzee's phone.
The weapon's location was visible in multiple aerial shots from the crime scene in the hours after the shooting.
This one, grabbed from a CBS Los Angeles broadcast, shows the gun at the bottom of the frame (the other two arrows point to Kizzee's clothing, also seen falling as he falls).
This one, from ABC7, shows the gun, as well.
And so does the tail end of this broadcast (below).
Knowing where the gun finally ended up makes it easier to spot it as it falls to the ground in the videos.
It is going to land inside the blue box seen below. In this scene, found at the 25-second mark in the first video posted above, the first deputy is seen discharging his weapon. It's the initial burst of shots that can be heard on the doorbell cameras. The person to the left, who had just been observing the scene, is now reacting to hearing the first round of shots fired.
Note that the second deputy is just moving into position. He'd been approaching the scene from the street, where he was while the first deputy was wrestling with Kizzee, making it highly unlikely he had been able to see the gun fall to the ground the first time. (The patrol vehicle is seen parked in the middle of the street just to the right of the green arrow.) He has not yet drawn his weapon.
A half-second later, the gun - a small flash of black - is seen sliding between the white bars of the fence, where it comes to rest near the pole it is seen by in the aerial images. In the video, you can also see the shadow of it falling just before it hits the ground.
The gun is still in motion on the ground in the screengrab below. The second deputy is still moving into position and has not yet drawn his weapon. The time stamp is still 25 seconds. The person to the left is now running from the scene. [See the time stamps on wider screenshots of both images here.]
I've (somewhat unhelpfully) tried placing a cursor arrow in the area where the gun is seen falling in the slowed-down version of the video below.
It is easier to see here that the second deputy's view both of what fell to the ground and what Kizzee picked up would have been obstructed by the the car he is squeezing past.
Also of note is that Kizzee is still standing back up when the first deputy fires. He had never raised his arms high enough to point the gun at either deputy, but especially not the second one, contrary to Wegener's claim the deputy had essentially been looking down the barrel. [This is seen more clearly in the second of the videos shared by the Sheriffs.]
Instead, Kizzee had spun around and was fleeing/falling by the time the second deputy was in position. Please note, the footage is graphic. [The cursor is not that helpful as a guide, either - I'm working on remedying that. The gun drops into frame about a quarter of an inch above the cursor (once the cursor is up near the white fence) and quickly scoots past it at about the 13 second mark. The shadow of the gun is visible as it falls a second or two earlier.]
Scott Frazier of the L.A. Podcast team was incredibly helpful in putting together an annotated gif that helps clarify what is happening with the deputies at this moment, shooting over a dozen rounds long after Kizzee's gun has already gone flying and Kizzee is already on the ground.
This vantage point also helps makes clear that there was a pause between the barrage the deputies fired together and their last few, more deliberate, shots, too.
The doorbell cam captures both those pauses in real time.
Notably, that footage was not included in the press briefing.
Absolutely none of this is to suggest that the gun is the thing that Kizzee initially dropped. A witness told ABC7 at the time that they believed Kizzee had dropped his phone, something which would help explain why it took the sheriffs three weeks to make the claim that the gun had been in Kizzee's hand.
For his part, however, Villanueva appeared to feel vindicated by the evidence.
When asked what his message was to the people, now that he had made good on his pledge to be transparent, he wasted no time in slamming any and all of his critics. "These are facts as we know them. Contrast that to the messages being communicated by the people on twitter. Five minutes after the shooting, somebody announced that he was shot 20 times in the back." he said. "Five minutes. And then you had a lot of people just piling on that it was an execution, assassination, [Kizzee] was murdered, [Kizzee] was running away and shot — and the facts do not support any of that."
Now people could see that the deputies were doing a difficult job and were "very fortunate" to not have been "on the receiving end of that weapon," he concluded.
At least one of the deputies appears to have been reluctant to give their side of the story until very recently, however.
On September 10, at a troubling LASD press conference featuring a Proud Boys supporter who regularly flashes "white power" symbols, Villanueva disclosed that one of the deputies had not yet been interviewed regarding Kizzee's shooting. He would not exactly call the deputy's reluctance to be interviewed a "refus[al]," he said. But he also said he wanted to make sure he could bring the deputy to the table without having to use coercion.
Yesterday's press conference was held just hours after members of the Civilian Oversight Commission called for Villanueva's resignation, citing a lengthy list of concerns about his conduct. Since then, a number of county officials have weighed in, also calling for his resignation.
Watch the full September 17 press conference below.
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