LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 22-year-old man with gang ties was unarmed when he was shot to death in the Athens area of Los Angeles County in 2009 by two sheriff's deputies who had no reason to believe their lives were in danger, an attorney told a jury today.
Addressing a Los Angeles Superior Court panel hearing opening statements
in a trial of a lawsuit brought by Woodrow Wilson Player III's wife, Tyisha,
and three of his children, lawyer Brian Dunn said the man's killing was
``This is a case about the Constitution of the United States,'' Dunn
said. ``An unarmed man was shot and killed by two deputies of the Los Angeles
County Sheriff's Department.''
But attorney Rickey Ivie, on behalf of the county and deputies Gonzalo
Galvez and Michael Carpenter, told the jury the two lawmen acted appropriately
while fearing that their lives were in danger.
``The deputies were confident there was a weapon in his hands,'' Ivie
said. ``They wouldn't have fired otherwise.''
Bullets travel faster than the speed of sound, and peace officers cannot
wait until they see a muzzle flash before firing their guns, Ivie said.
``If you wait to hear the sound of a bullet, you're already dead,'' Ivie
Player was killed during two volleys of shots fired at him about 8:50
p.m. on July 10, 2009, in the 11200 block of Berendo Avenue. His widow brought
her lawsuit in April 2010, alleging wrongful death, battery and violation of
Dunn said Player was hit with 10 of the 17 to 18 bullets fired and that
he died while trying to scale a fence.
``The second volley of shots happens literally while Mr. Player is on
the fence,'' Dunn said.
According to the Dunn, deputies were responding to a report of man with
a gun when they saw a car driven by a man who fit the suspect's description.
Dunn said Player had displayed a gun during an argument with his former
girlfriend, Latoria Williams, and that the deputies were justified in ordering
him to stop his car.
Player pulled into the parking lot of Laker's liquor store on Imperial
Highway, then got out of his car and ran, Dunn said. He left the gun on the
floor of his car, according to Dunn.
``He was doing one thing -- running for his life,'' Dunn said.
Player ran across Imperial Highway and was shot seconds later by the
deputies, who left him hanging upside down by his jeans on the fence, Dunn
The attorney acknowledged Player had a lengthy criminal record, had been
in prison and had gang ties, but said his background was not grounds to shoot
``Because a man has a criminal history, the law does not allow the
police to kill that man,'' Dunn said.
Dunn represents Player's widow and and her two children with him. A
separate action was brought March 16 on behalf of Justin Player, the son Player
had with Williams. The two cases are being tried at the same time.
The boy is represented by attorney Alex Galindo, who told jurors that
his client's father spent considerable time with all of his children despite
his troubled past.
But according to Ivie, Player was behind bars for nearly 75 percent of
his adult life. He said that although no weapon was found on Player, he did
have a cell phone that resembled the type of gun the deputies thought he had.
Player helped bring about his own death, Ivie said.
``Mr. Player made choices that led to his own demise,'' Ivie said. ``Mr.
Player created the situation, escalated the situation and concluded the
Ivie also said he doubted that the slain man and Tyisha Player were married. He said she should not be a plaintiff if they were not legally wed.