Relatives of a man who was seen on video being fatally shot by a California Highway Patrol officer following a struggle on the 105 Freeway in Watts announced legal action today against the law enforcement agency, alleging excessive use of force.
Jesse Dominguez, 34, was fatally shot the afternoon of Nov. 19 after he was spotted walking on the freeway near Wilmington Avenue.
According to the CHP, an officer made repeated verbal attempts to persuade him out of the traffic lanes, but he wouldn’t comply. The CHP stopped all westbound traffic on the freeway.
As the officer approached Dominguez, a struggle ensued on the freeway and Dominguez was able to access a stun gun he had in his possession, activated it and used it against the officer, according to the CHP.
“Following the pedestrian’s use of the weapon against the officer, and in fear for his safety, the officer fired his service weapon, striking the pedestrian,” the statement said.
Dominguez died at a hospital, according to the county medical examiner.
At a news conference Tuesday, attorneys for Dominguez’s family told a different story, saying the CHP officer had no justification for the use of deadly force, pointing to a widely circulated video of the confrontation and shooting. They announced the filing of a damages claim against the CHP, a precursor to a lawsuit.
Attorney Luis Carrillo said the officer fired seven shots at Dominguez, a man who was in the midst of a mental breakdown.
“This officer is a danger to the community,” Carrillo said. “He has no business wearing a badge and patrolling the streets. He turned himself into a common criminal the minute he unleashed those seven bullets against a man that is on the ground. He’s not getting up. He’s on the ground and he — boom, boom, boom, boom — blasted him to kingdom come.”
Carrillo said the officer should face criminal charges.
Relatives said Dominguez struggled with substance abuse and bipolar depression, and he was staying at a sober-living facility. They said he had aspirations of becoming an actor or singer but was primarily working as a waiter.
CHP officials said an investigation into the shooting was continuing. Attorney General Rob Bonta said the Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team is also investigating and will independently review the shooting, in accordance with state mandates. Upon completion of the investigation, it will be turned over to DOJ’s Special Prosecutions Section, according to Bonta’s office.
Responding to the video of the shooting taken by a bystander, Los Angeles City Councilman Tim McOsker, state Sen. Steven Bradford and Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who all represent the Watts area, issued a joint statement last week expressing concern over the events depicted.
McOsker called the video “shocking” and said the shooting must be “fully investigated expeditiously.”
“The community deserves transparency on the circumstances around this incident and I will work with my state-elected counterparts to keep our community apprised of any results of the investigation,” McOsker said in the joint statement.
“My prayers go out to the whole community who have been impacted by this and I join my fellow elected officials and civic leaders in asking for peace at this time.”
Bradford, D-Gardena, said the shooting “appears to be an unnecessary use of deadly force,” and that the community deserves answers.
He added, “If the roles were reversed, people would be immediately calling for murder charges. I call on the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Justice to be transparent and for the community to be calm and patient during the investigation.”
Gipson, D-Carson, who noted he was a “son” of the Watts community, said in the statement that while all the facts that led to the shooting are not known, “justice should be our focal point.”