Tony Francis, Unarmed Compton Man, Shot Dead by Sheriff: Family Files Civil-Rights Lawsuit, Alleges 'Coverup'
Friends and family of 22-year-old Compton dad Tony Francis are having a hard time believing the L.A. County Sheriff's account of his death last Friday:
Sheriff's Homicide Detective Holly Francisco told reporters that a deputy from the Lakewood station was forced to shoot Francis after the suspect was observed carrying out a violent robbery near the American Tire Depot on Alondra Boulevard in Bellflower.
Francis "was hitting the victim in the face numerous times and stole an item from the victim," the detective alleged to CBS2. "The suspect then began to run away from the deputy. The deputy followed him..."
"... and when the suspect reached and grabbed toward his waistband, the deputy, believing that he was armed, fired at the suspect."
We've contacted Detective Francisco to see if the Sheriff's Department is sticking by that story. But according to Bryan Dunn, an attorney with the Cochran firm -- the same wrongful-death powerhouse that took on the infamous Reginald Doucet police slaying in Playa Vista last year -- Francis "hadn't committed any violent crime" before he was shot dead.
The sheriff's incriminating portrait of Francis and the "waistband" allegation are familiar tactics, says Dunn.
"What the police do under these types of circumstances is invent a scenario that will make an unjustified shooting seem justified," he says. (Indeed, CBS2 commenters seem to use the robbery allegation to argue that cops were just taking another thug off the streets.)
The attorney calls Friday's tragedy "another example of an officer shooting first and asking questions later." He says the victim's family will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, based on "civil-rights violations" and "negligent tactics."
At the highly emotional crime scene, friends told CBS2 that Francis, father to a two-year-old girl, had no history of violence and no reason to rob anybody, seeing as he worked a regular job.
RIP Tony Francis FUCK THE COMPTON SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT 4 KILLN MY YUNG NIGGA.....details on this tragedy here dougieacademy.com/2012/08/wheres...
— Its Killaaaaa (@Killa_Twan) August 27, 2012
Eddie Jones Jr. with the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association tells L.A. Weekly today: "We feel that there might be some coverup with the Sheriff's Department."
According to Jones, the victim's family wants to know why the deputy who shot Francis was driving his patrol car at such a high rate of speed that it jumped a curb and slammed into a concrete retaining wall. That's when the deputy reportedly shot Francis, who is not believed to have been armed at the time.
"We talked with [American Tire Depot]," says Jones, "and he never tried to rob anyone at the tire shop," as the deputy alleged. (When the Weekly called the shop, the skittish manager would say only: "Nobody's seen anything.")
Local civil-rights leader Jones says this reminds him of a recent police killing in Pasadena, in which cops shot unarmed 19-year-old football star Kendrec McDade after a 911 caller claimed that McDade had attempted to rob a taco truck, as well as his personal vehicle. That report now appears to have been a lie.
More details about the Francis case -- and how it may likewise involve a faulty 911 call and a blind police response -- will be revealed at today's press conference/candlelight vigil at the American Tire Depot.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.