Just days after the mother of Connor Bishop Zion filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit, the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office cleared Michael Higgins, the sheriff deputy that shot the 21-year-old dead.
On the morning of September 24, 2013, Kimberly Zion received a call from her son's roommate, concerned about the seizures Connor had suffered the past few days. She flew from her home in Washington and arrived at their Laguna Niguel condo later that evening.
According to the OCDA report, that's when trouble started...
At the condo, Kimberly and the roommate discussed whether or not her son took his prescription medications regularly. Connor came downstairs in a rage and started attacking his roommate, eventually grabbing a knife and slashing his arm. His mom wrested the knife from her son's hand and chucked it into a back patio chimney.
Bleeding from her hand, Kimberly sought refuge in a neighbor's condo. Around 7:30 p.m., the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) received a call about a stabbed man bleeding in the street. Sheriff deputies--Higgins, and a Deputy Lopez--arrived separately on scene, when Connor reappeared with a knife in hand. (How he rearmed himself isn't clarified in the report).
A chase followed. Lopez lost his footing and fell to the ground. Connor got on top of the deputy and stabbed him twice. Higgins got out of his patrol unit and fired at Connor, who got up and fled. Higgins emptied his clip of all 18 rounds until Connor fell to the ground. The deputy followed up by kicking a still-moving Conner in the head three times "rendering him unconscious."
The OCDA report cites Lopez's injuries and the video from his patrol car as corroborating Higgins accounts of events. Accordingly, all actions by the deputy were deemed justified.
The federal lawsuit filed earlier this month claims that Connor didn't stab his roommate, and that the cuts suffered were a result of an accident, not an assault. It further contends that Connor had separated from deputy Lopez at the time Higgins began firing.
"We interviewed the same witnesses in the report," attorney Jerry L. Steering tells the Weekly. "You can't rely on what the DA or the Sheriff says. They always omit important facts." The only amendment to the complaint after the release of the OCDA report will be the inclusion of the previously unknown names of the deputies involved.
Steering takes special umbrage to the way he says Connor died at the hands of Higgins. "Connor's lying there disabled from two or three bullet wounds and gets pumped full of lead with three kicks to the head," Steering says. "That's not an act of policing, that's an act of revenge."
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The OCSD hasn't yet been served with the lawsuit, but echoes the OCDA's report. "It was determined the deputy's actions were reasonable, justified and saved the life of another deputy sheriff while likely preventing others from being attacked," says OCSD spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock. "We are prepared to review the complaint once we are served."
Read the OCDA report in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2