WILLOWBROOK (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has changed its account of what happened the night 36-year-old Jose De La Trinindad was fatally shot by deputies.
They announced Thursday that a witness has come forward claiming the Inglewood resident was unarmed, standing still with his hands on his head, when he was killed.
The 18-year-old woman told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Dave Lopez that she did not want to be identified or interviewed, but confirmed that she did see the shooting and began crying when De La Trinidad was shot down.
The shooting occurred on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Inglewood after De La Trinidad left a Quinceanera with his brother.
The father of two was in the passenger seat of his brother’s car when deputies tried to pull him over for a code violation but the brother inexplicably sped off.
After a brief chase, the car stopped in the 1900 block of E. 122nd Street in Willowbrook and De La Trinidad got out of the vehicle.
Deputies said it looked like he was raising his arm to go to his waistband for a weapon, and they shot him.
No weapon was found. De La Trinidad was pronounced dead at the scene.
“He put his hands up, like he was told. And there are plenty of witnesses there who witnessed it. But they are terrified,” said the victim’s widow, Rosie.
His wife believes he simply got out of the car because he wanted no part of the chase. She said her husband was just trying to do the right thing by getting out of the car and that shouldn’t have cost him his life.
Attorney Luis Carrillo, who represents the De La Trinidad family, spoke to CBS2/KCAL9 about the eyewitness last week. He accused deputies of intimidating her and trying to convince her De La Trinidad had his hand at his waist when he was shot.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore had denied Carrillo’s claims and said they had not interviewed any witnesses at that point.
On Thursday, Whitmore changed his story. He said the female witness had been interviewed the night of the shooting.
“Homicide didn’t, they didn’t know. They said, ‘No, we don’t know of anything. We checked,’” said Whitmore, who claimed it was a miscommunication between field deputies and detectives.
Lopez asked Whitmore whether the department was trying to hide anything.
“No, absolutely not. It’s a fair question,” Whitmore said.
Lopez asked the witness whether deputies had tried to intimidate her or get her to change her story the night of the shooting; she wouldn’t comment.
“Do they feel intimidated? Probably — we understand that. Did the deputies do anything consciously, directly? No, they were just getting information,” Whitmore said.
The one fact no one disputes in this case is that De La Trinidad was unarmed.