Family calls for federal probe in fatal police shooting

Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times) | November 5, 2011

His family stood quietly during a Friday afternoon news conference outside the Long Beach Police Department, holding signs that read, “Justice for Douglas Zerby!” and “Jail Killers Ortiz and Shurtleff.”

They listened as their attorney, Brian Claypool, called for a federal probe into last year’s fatal police shooting of Zerby, 35, because, Claypool said, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office had mishandled its own investigation.

The call for the federal probe came a day after the district attorney’s office cleared Long Beach Police Officers Victor Ortiz and Jeffrey Shurtleff in the shooting.

The findings showed that the officers were acting lawfully in self-defense when they mistook a black spray nozzle in Zerby’s hand as a handgun and shot him. It also shows that Zerby had pointed the black spray nozzle at one of the officers in a shooting position.

But since the Dec. 12 incident, Claypool and Zerby’s family have said the officers never identified themselves to Zerby, never ordered him to lay down his alleged weapon, and claimed a third officer who was observing Zerby through a rifle scope should have been able to determine that Zerby was not armed with a handgun.

On Friday, Claypool went further by accusing Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley of rubber-stamping the Long Beach Police Department’s internal investigation as his office’s own, rather than independently investigating the shooting. He questioned the accuracy of the information in the report, including the    23-foot distance one of the officers was from Zerby.

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