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Cops killed Dijon Kizzee after a minor bike stop. There are several similar police shootings in LA

By Nicole Santa Cruz and Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES - Noel Aguilar was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk when he stole a glance at a couple of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and quickly pedaled away.

Within minutes of what began as a routine encounter, the 23-year-old was dead with three rounds in his back.

When Christian Cobian was stopped by deputies because his bike didn't have lights, he ran from them with his hand underneath his shirt. Deputies said they thought Cobian, 26, was going to shoot them and fired 13 rounds, killing him. No gun was found.

In August, Dijon Kizzee, 29, was shot 16 times and killed by deputies who tried to stop him for riding his bike on the wrong side of the street in South L.A., spurring weeks of protests.

Kizzee's death and the others highlight how deadly violence can erupt from minor infractions and has sparked criticism of law enforcement's failure to de-escalate such incidents.

The Los Angeles Times identified 16 cases since 2005 where a stop for bike violations in Los Angeles County resulted in a police shooting, according to interviews and a review of public records from the district attorney, coroner and various court cases. Most of the stops occurred in communities made up largely of Black and Latino residents. In 11 incidents, including Kizzee's, the bicyclists - all male and Black or Latino - were killed.

 

Among those 16 cases, violations ranged from riding on the sidewalk to biking without a light or on the wrong side of the road. In 11 cases, authorities said they found a firearm. In one shooting, deputies found an airsoft gun they said looked like a semi-automatic handgun.

Traffic stops have long been a source of controversy in policing, even more so now amid calls for police reform sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The aggressive enforcement of minor infractions that law enforcement has long touted as effective under the "broken windows" theory of policing has been criticized for resulting in racial disparities and alienating residents without lowering crime.

A Los Angeles Times analysis in 2019 found that LAPD officers searched Black and Latino drivers far more often than white people during traffic stops, even though white people were more likely to be found with illegal items.

There has been much debate about who police pull over in a vehicle for traffic violations, but much less examination of how those laws are enforced for bicyclists. Bike stops are under particular scrutiny as cycling has become a safe alternative during the coronavirus outbreak for many people in poor communities who would normally rely on public transportation to get around.

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