A little more than a week after a California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed a 33-year-old man on the 105 Freeway in Watts, the family of the victim has filed a civil lawsuit against the agency.
The lawsuit seeks damages for the death of Jesse Dominguez, an aspiring actor who was living at a sober-living house and, according to the family, was in the midst of a mental health episode when the shooting occurred.
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Luis Carrillo, said during a news conference Tuesday that mental health support officers should have been called in, but instead Dominguez was shot.
The CHP officer “pulled out his gun, and he blasted Jesse to kingdom come,” Carrillo said.
The lawsuit alleges that the CHP is liable for damages because of the officer’s inadequate response in the incident, as well as the agency’s negligent training and supervision of officers. The suit says the officers lack “reverence for human life.”
The incident began on Nov. 19 at about 3:15 p.m., when law enforcement was alerted to a man walking in freeway lanes near the Wilmington Avenue exit on the westbound 105.
Dominguez was confronted by a CHP officer at about 3:30 p.m. According to the Highway Patrol, the officer commanded Dominguez to get out of the roadway. When Dominguez refused to comply, the CHP stopped all traffic and the officer approached him.
The officer and Dominguez then got into a physical struggle, which was captured in part in a bystander’s cellphone video that surfaced later online. The CHP said Dominguez reached for a Taser he had with him, and in response, the officer fired his handgun at Dominguez.
The video shows Dominguez prone, with the officer standing over him. When Dominguez reaches his arm up toward the officer, the officer fires a shot at Dominguez. He then fires several more shots while backing away, and stands with his weapon drawn as Dominguez lies unmoving.
A CHP spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit and cited a statement issued Nov. 20 regarding the incident.
“Following the pedestrian’s use of the weapon against the officer, and in fear for his safety, the officer fired his service weapon, striking the pedestrian,” the statement read.
The statement said that the officer, who has not been identified, was placed on administrative leave as a result of the shooting.
The California Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into the incident. A request for comment to the attorney general’s office went unanswered Wednesday.