LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two SFPD officers fatally shot an unarmed 20-year-old man six times as he ran away from them, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the man's parents.
Juan Perez and Margarita Lopez Perez sued the city and county of San Francisco, San Francisco Police Department, its chief of police Greg Suhr and officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli on behalf of the estate of their son, Amilcar Perez Lopez in Los Angeles Federal Court on Friday.
Lopez was walking to his apartment when a man began following and taunting him and "an altercation ensued," the man's parents claim in the suit.
When the altercation subsided, Tiffe and Reboli rushed Lopez from behind, according to the complaint.
Lopez's parents say that the officers were in civilian clothing and did not identify themselves, so there is no way Lopez could have known they were police officers.
The 5-foot, 3-inch, 131-pound Lopez broke free from the officers and ran away right before one of the officers immediately fired five bullets into his back and the other fired one into the back of his head, the suit states.
That evening, Suhr arrived at the scene and began an investigation while "Amilcar's body lay dead on the street as blood and brain matter seeped from his remains," the man's parents claim in the lawsuit.
After the investigation, Suhr falsely told a local television news station that Lopez had "lunged at the officer with a knife overhead," according to the complaint.
In the days that followed, however, an autopsy provided "unequivocal physical evidence" that Lopez had been shot in the back. Despite this evidence, Suhr maintained at a town hall meeting that Lopez had charged at the officers wielding a knife when they shot him from a distance of five or six feet, the complaint says.
Lopez's parents are suing for excessive force, municipal liability for unconstitutional customs and practices, supervisory liability and a due process violation of the right to familial integrity.
They are represented by Arnoldo Casillas of Casillas, Moreno & Associates in Montebello, Calif., and by Jonathan Melrod and William Simpich, Jr. in the Bay Area.
The parents' complaint also notes that SFPD has a long reputation for use of excessive force and similar instances of officer misconduct, and settled a federal lawsuit involving Tiffe and Reboli beating a man's head with their batons.
More recently, the department is currently investigating 13 of its officers who allegedly sent a host of racist and homophobic text messages, "further evidence the racist and extremist culture" in the department, Lopez's parents claim.
Neither side could be reached for comment by press time.
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