Civil rights attorney Carl Douglas held a press conference Wednesday in response to the version of events officially announced by the Inglewood Police Department regarding the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Michael Byoune and the wounding of two other men.
Douglas said he will be filing a claim for damages in the next few weeks followed by a federal civil rights lawsuit in the controversial case. “I’ve been suing police for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen an occasion like this where innocent lives were taken based on the reckless use of deadly force that was exhibited in this incident. The streets of Inglewood and Los Angeles are dangerous, but everyone who travels in the community is not. Police have to learn to appreciate the distinction.”
The shooting incident occurred Sunday at 1:40 a.m. at the Rally’s hamburger stand at Manchester and Crenshaw Blvds.
Douglas, who is legally representing Jackie Lynn Roberts, the mother of fatally shot Michael Byoune, as well as 19-year-old Larry White and 21-year-old Christopher Larkins, said that his clients’ recollection of the events surrounding the incident dramatically vary from the version released by the Inglewood Police Department.
He said that none of the young men had ever been in trouble. “All of the young men are from the Los Angeles area and have been friends since junior high school,” said Douglas. “None of them have been arrested by police or have any gang affiliation. These are good brothers,” he said.
On the morning of the incident, officers allege that the car was moving toward them which caused them to fire their weapons.
“Any suggestion that the car was moving toward the officers in a threatening manner is false,” said Douglas. “Inglewood police are saying that the cops heard a second volley of gunshots. That is also false. The only gunshots fired were fired 30 seconds earlier on the other side of the parking lot which caused Larkins to run.”
Pausing, Douglas added, “There is a need for the Inglewood Police to justify a tragically mistaken shooting.”
Douglas said that his clients drove to the Rally’s hamburger stand early Sunday morning on May 11th. “White was driving the car, a 2004 Honda Accord. Larkins was in the front passenger seat and Byoune was in the rear seat behind White. Larkins got out of the car and ordered a hamburger, while Byoune and White stayed in the car. After receiving his order, Larkins discovered that the hamburger had cheese, which he didn’t order. He walked back to the Rally’s window to change the order. While he was standing at the window, gunshots rang out on the north side of the hamburger stand. As everyone in the community knows, if you hear gunshots, you scatter or you duck and run. That’s Street Life 101.”
Pausing, Douglas continued, “Larkins said that after he heard the shots, he ran toward the vehicle he came in. White pulled the car toward the Manchester exit so that they could speed out of the driveway on Manchester to Crenshaw Boulevard. He stopped so that Larkins could jump into the car. Byoune opened the rear door to let Larkins get in.”
Douglas said after hearing the shots, the police sped into the driveway of Rally’s. “Before my clients could even close the door to their vehicle, the police started firing,” said Douglas.
According to a preliminary investigation, both officers fired multiple shots at the vehicle, causing the vehicle to stop across from the officers. The gunshots fatally wounded Byoune. Douglas said that Byoune, who is at an undisclosed funeral home, sustained two bullets in the chest and two in the back.
“White was struck in his left thigh and was rushed to the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center. He had to undergo surgery Monday,” said Douglas. “Doctors had to insert a rod into his leg and he is recovering from his injuries. Doctors told him that there is a possibility that one of his legs will be shorter than the other as a result of the tragedy.”
The attorney said that Larkins has sustained a wound on the side of his face. “He also has wounds on his backside from the bullets,” said Douglas.
Douglas said that his private investigator uncovered 16 bullet holes in the vehicle driven by his clients. “I’m informed that the Inglewood police officer, who was a training officer, thought that their police vehicle had been struck by a bullet. He fired at least four shots at my clients through his police windshield, then got out of the car and kept firing toward my clients’ vehicle. What is so unbelievable is that this policeman was firing at an unarmed man who was running for his life.”
“The Inglewood police have to justify this tragedy in some way, so they tried to do that by suggesting that the officer thought that he was under fire. They have to say that to justify why the officer used deadly force.”
The attorney also pointed to other inconsistencies in the case. “Officers claim they heard a second volley of gunshots right before Larkins got into the vehicle. That is inconsistent with what the witnesses say happened that night. They said that there was only one volley of gunshots that rang out before the police entered the parking lot.”
Douglas observed, “I think the case reflects a breakdown in training for an Inglewood police officer and it places the entire community at risk. The guy that shot the bullets apparently fired four shots through his own windshield. He was training a young officer, Ramon Fernandez. Both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave.”
Although Inglewood Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks announced at the press conference Monday that the incident is under civil and criminal investigation, and is also under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Douglas said he seriously doubted whether the two officers will face charges. “The District Attorney launches an investigation and they interview people, but they rarely bring charges in a case. I doubt these officers will be terminated. I don’t think they meant to kill an unarmed man, but they were so poorly trained, that an accident was inevitable.”
Douglas said that the training methods of the Inglewood Police Department should be thoroughly investigated. “If the training officer is so poorly trained that he is firing at unarmed men through his windshield, all of us are at risk,” said Douglas. “Any one of us could have been getting a hamburger. That’s the frightening subtext of this case. Three innocent men have now had their lives changed forever.”
The family of Michael Byoune is seeking donations for Byoune’s burial. Donations can be deposited with bank officer Eduardo Novoa at the Bank of America at 118 W. Rosecrans Avenue, Gardena, CA. 90248 or call (310) 884-1870 account number 1167771277.