SOUTH PASADENA (CBSLA) – The family of a mentally-ill Whittier man who was shot and killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies last year — after he allegedly brandished a large knife – filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the agency Tuesday, claiming the shooting should have been avoided.
On the night of Oct. 6, deputies shot and killed 37-year-old Marco Vazquez in the 8000 block of Rexall Avenue. Vazquez had been previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, his family said.
“There’s bullets that are made of rubber, there’s stun guns, there’s other things that could have been done in order to prevent my brother’s death,” Christopher Vazquez, Mark’s brother, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday in South Pasadena. “It’s not fair that we have to be here and show our mourning and our sorrow in front of live cameras.”
According to the sheriff’s department, deputies were called to Vazquez’s home on two separate occasions the night of the shooting.
They were first called just after 8 p.m. on a report of a man banging on windows and holding a large knife. After arriving on scene with an L.A. County Mental Evaluation Team, they determined Vazquez had not committed a crime and they left him in his family’s care.
However, a littler after 10:30 p.m. that same night, a different group of deputies responded to the area on a 911 call that indicated that Vazquez had said he wanted to be shot by police. The sheriff’s department reported at the time that they arrived on scene to find Vazquez holding a knife to a woman’s throat in the driveway of the home. The woman was a family member. He refused orders to drop the knife and then began advancing on deputies, at which point they shot him multiple times, LASD reported.
Vazquez died at the scene. A large knife was also recovered.
“The sheriff’s department put out a statement that is totally false and inaccurate,” family attorney Michael Carrillo told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. “What they’re doing is they’re trying to provide cover for their department officers as a way to justify their wrongful shooting and killing of this man in this case.”
The deputies were not equipped with body cameras and there was no cell phone video of the shooting.
“The family wants these officers fired, and if they’re not fired, they should be retrained so that they don’t go out into the community and commit a senseless killing again,” family attorney Luis Carrillo added.
Family members said Tuesday that deputies should have taken Vazquez – who had been recently hospitalized — into custody on a psychiatric hold during the first visit to the home. In an interview the day after the shooting, Vazquez’s family told CBS2 that he had shown no signs of violence before.
“We call them for help, but instead of helping, they killed him,” Frank Mosqueda, Mark’s uncle, said.