A community is crying foul and following in Fullerton's footsteps.
On Oct. 22, a Downey police officer gunned down Michael Nida, a father of four who had spent the day celebrating his birthday, according to a Los Angeles Wave story.
Police stopped Nida for his alleged connection to an armed robbery that had happened earlier in the day and they justified the shooting by saying that Nida tried to run from them twice. The only problem was that they later admitted that they had mistakenly stopped him, the LA Wave story says. Similarly, in the Fullerton case, officers allegedly approached Kelly Thomas, who they later beat to death, for breaking into to cars or stealing things. Both claims turned out to be false.
The Downey shooting understandably outraged Nida's family and the community.
So, just like members of Kelly's Army did after Fullerton police beat Thomas to death, the community in Downey has vowed to voice their opinions at every council meeting until they see some semblance of justice. But, like some of the councilmembers in Fullerton, the city council cited ongoing investigations and remained rather tight-lipped. And, just like in Fullerton, the quietness from the council only compounded the community's frustration.
Aside from the similar frustrations over not getting answers from the people they elected to represent them, both cases also raised questions of police training.
According to the LA Wave story: “Downey police were not properly trained. They failed twice to handcuff him,” said Nida's mother Jean Thaxton.” Many in Fullerton have also questioned why several officers weren't able to, or chose not to, subdue Thomas, a small-framed man, and handcuff him.
Fullertontian Paul Orloff, who started the online petition to reprimand all six officers involved in Thomas' death, is quoted in the LA Wave story comparing the two cities. “Everybody hates Fullerton because of that. Downey will be like Fullerton.”
While two officers in the Thomas case currently face criminal charges, the other four who were involved are still on unpaid, administrative leave as officials wait for the findings of an outside investigation.
And, earlier this week the Los Angeles Times broke news that Jay Cicinelli, one of the officers facing criminal charges in the case, is still getting a larger-than-usual pension from his last job in LA. Cicinelli, who was shot in the eye while on duty in 1996, was granted 70 percent of his salary since it was assumed he wouldn't work again. He was eventually hired by the Fullerton Police Department, however, but still raked in the plush pension from LA.
According to a statement from Downey Police Chief Rick Esteves, the officer who shot Nida is currently on paid administrative leave. Esteves added that the LA Sheriff's Department is investigating and that “we must let justice take its course and allow this case to be investigated by a non-involved, independent organization.”