Los Angeles County Sheriff releases video of fatal shooting of woman who reported domestic violence


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released body camera footage Friday night showing the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old Black woman who called to report domestic violence in early December.

According to audio of the 911 call released by the department, Niani Finlayson called officers just after 6 p.m. on Dec. 4 to report a man who would not come out of her house or leave her alone.

Video footage shows officers responded to the apartment complex in Lancaster City, about 44 miles (71 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, and shot Finlayson less than a minute after opening the door.

Finlayson was holding an object in one hand that deputies identified as a knife. The video shows him grabbing the man with his other hand and within seconds a deputy shot him.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department will investigate to determine whether the use of force was justified.

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"Any time someone's life is lost, no matter the circumstances, it is a difficult time for everyone involved," Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said in a statement. Reported by the Los Angeles Times, “The Department released the body-worn camera footage ahead of the legal deadline to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and visual representation of the facts in this case.”

Finlayson's family, including his parents and two daughters, filed a government claim on December 20, indicating they intended to seek $30 million in damages. A claim is a precursor to filing a lawsuit.

The claim, filed by attorney Bradley Gage, says Finlayson was sitting on the ground when the deputy fired at her from behind a glass door, which appears to be contradicted by video footage.

Gage did not immediately respond to a voicemail left by The Associated Press requesting comment upon the release of the video footage. He told the Los Angeles Times that deputies could have used stun guns or pepper spray to deescalate the situation.

"They encountered a situation that was volatile, but not fatal, and they turned it into a fatal situation with these tactics," he said.

The claim says Finlayson was shot in front of her 9-year-old daughter. Video footage shows a girl telling officers it felt like "he pushed me" or "he punched me."

The Sheriff's Department also released audio from a 911 call in which a woman identified by authorities as Finlayson can be heard saying, "This guy, he won't come out of my house," and "He won't leave me alone " He can be heard yelling at someone to get off him.

The dispatcher on the call can be heard telling him to go to a quieter area. Authorities described the man as Finlayson's boyfriend, but he cannot be heard identifying himself as such on the audio.

Body camera footage shows three deputies outside the apartment building. One deputy is seen knocking on the door and another says, "They're in the back room, but they're not answering."

Screaming could be heard from inside the apartment unit. A deputy kicks the door several times, before a female officer identified as Finlayson opens the door and begins yelling, "I'll stab him."

Deputies begin to enter the unit and three people can be seen inside.

A girl inside the apartment says it feels like "he pushed me" or "he punched me."

Deputies then go around the corner of the apartment and point guns at Finlayson and a man standing on the opposite side of the room. She can be seen holding the man with one hand. A deputy can be heard saying, "Put it down."

Within seconds, a deputy fires several shots and Finlayson falls to the ground.

The Sheriff's Department says after opening the door, Finlayson grabbed a kitchen knife. Body camera footage shows him holding an object to the door. In a still shot of the body camera footage, Finlayson is seen holding an object identified as a kitchen knife in one hand and grabbing the man with the other.

Immediately after the shooting, the man Finlayson was holding was heard yelling, "No," and "Why did you shoot?"

The department has identified the deputy who shot Finlayson as Ty Shelton.

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