Latiera Irby was in South Los Angeles visiting her mother and planning to get her hair done by her younger sister when she witnessed a Black man’s fatal encounter with police. As she watched the scene unfold, she said to herself, it couldn’t be real. “This is really happening in front of me. They really just (killed) this man in front of me for nothing,” she said.
She was an eyewitness to Dijon Kizzee’s death. Dijon Kizzee was 29 years old. His father, Edwin Kizzee, describes him as a gentle giant, loving, caring and a jokester. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies took his life on Aug. 31 starting with a traffic violation.
Dijon Kizzee was riding a bike when officers stopped him, and he ended up dropping his bike and running. Ms. Irby said she was sitting in her car when Dijon ran up to her.
“He was like ‘they trying to get me, they trying to get me. I’ll give you some gas money to drop me off.’ And I had told him no,” she said.
When he saw police approaching, he ran down the street.
“The police, they saw him and they drove up on him. The passenger police officer jumped out of the car and fell on the ground. Dijon had his hands up with his clothes in his hands, both hands high in the air,” Ms. Irby said. “They start wrestling. They weren’t fighting. No punches were swung. They were wrestling, and Dijon dropped all his belongings that he had.”
The next part of Dijon’s Kizzee’s story depends on the account. According to a statement released by the LA Sheriff’s Department, Dijon punched one of the deputies and then dropped his jacket. Police say a gun also fell to the ground and that Dijon Kizzee was shot after making a motion toward the gun. Ms. Irby gave a different account.
“When he dropped his belongings, he backed up and he tried to turn around. He was able to turn around, and when he turned back around to see where the police was at, the police shot him three times. When he fell to the ground, the police backed up and kept shooting him. The officer came from the side and shot him too while he was on the ground. He wasn’t even alive anymore,” Ms. Irby told The Final Call over the phone, in tears. “When he walked up to my car asking me for a ride, he never had no gun,” she said.
Several videos have surfaced about the incident. A grainy video sent to The Final Call by Edwin Kizzee appears to back up Ms. Irby’s account. In the video, it is not possible to detect if Dijon had a gun. Nevertheless, Edwin Kizzee believes his son feared for his life.
“You can see where he went into defense mode, where he was trying to fend him off, because the dude was on him, rushing him, trying to hit him. And that’s exactly what happened. So I know he did it out of fear,” he said.
Edwin Kizzee said his son wasn’t licensed to carry, and if he did have a gun, it was to protect himself.
“I don’t know if he even had the gun, if it was his or not. But from what it seems, I just don’t know, but a gun popped up at the scene,” he said. “If anything, I think he would have had the gun and carried it for protection from where he was at and that part of town. Because this gang violence, it’s a lot of stuff going on over there.”
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles has been on the ground protesting and organizing. Melina Abdullah, the organization’s co-founder, said even if Dijon had a gun, it had fallen to the ground.
“If the satchel of clothes was dropped, if a gun was dropped on the ground, then it wasn’t in his hand,” she said. “So even by their own admission, if he at some point had a gun and you think it was a gun violation, then maybe he should be arrested and charged for the gun violation. But what no one is saying is that he had a gun and that it was a direct threat to the police.”
She and other activists have questions. “Why are they stopping a grown man on a bicycle in a residential neighborhood? Why are they pursuing him after he walks away from them?” asked Cliff Smith, an organizer with the Coalition for Community Control over the Police in Los Angeles, who also organized a protest after Dijon Kizzee’s death. “And then once he’s dropped everything that’s in his hands on the ground, why do they feel any need to use any type of lethal force against him? Why do they want to just fire 20 shots into his back? It’s a pattern and practice of the sheriff’s department.”
Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, the Western regional representative of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, said the way in which Dijon Kizzee was shot 15-20 times over a bike violation is in the nature of the White man. He used the example of a chicken hawk hunting and eating a chicken.
“That’s like chickens marching in a chicken hawk’s capitol trying to force a chicken hawk to believe that chicken lives matter. Well, the chicken hawk would say yeah, your life matters because as long as I’m eating you, I can live. And so we’re talking about the nature. They’re not going to change,” he said.
After Dijon Kizzee was shot and killed, he was left lying on the ground for hours.
“When they get murdered, they put big ‘ol tents up so helicopters can’t even see the murder or the crime scene. But no, my cousin was laying in the gutter, and he laid in the gutter for hours,” said Jamie Kizzee, Dijon’s 50-year-old cousin. “This is systemic racism at work. This is no different than when we get lynched and they forced the slaves to watch.”
She didn’t know Dijon personally, but she decided to speak to The Final Call because his mother passed away in 2011, his father has been incarcerated for 22 years, his grandfather is too distraught.
“We are not going to call for peace in the streets because the peacemakers come to our neighborhoods, and they don’t practice peace,” she said. “My cousin was riding on a bicycle minding his own business, and these officers disturbed his peace. That’s the way we feel,” said Jamie Kizzee.
The names of the officers have not been released. Jamie Kizzee said the family is demanding for the release of their names.
“My family, the Kizzee family, my father just lost his sister to Covid on Aug. 12. We just buried her last week. We are going through it right now, and to have this happen on top of my auntie dying from Covid, it’s just heartbreaking,” she said as she cried over the phone.
Edwin Kizzee wants his son’s killers to be held accountable. “I’m numb right now. I’m doing the best I can, and I’m hoping that we can get some kind of justice out of it. I hope that they see their day in court for my son, because that was my one and only,” he said. “I’m 52, so I wasn’t looking forward to having any more kids. That was my only. That was my twin, as everybody says. He looked just like me. I was looking forward to being there with him. … and now I can’t.”
The family has retained civil rights Attorney Benjamin Crump. Attorneys Dale Galipo and Carl Douglas have also been retained on the case. They held a Zoom meeting with the Kizzee family on Sept. 2. According to authorities, the two officers involved have been removed from patrol duty. The New York Times reported that the sheriff’s department along with the district attorney’s office and the Internal Affairs Bureau are investigating the shooting. The sheriff’s department and coroner’s office did not respond to The Final Call’s inquiries regarding the case. A statement released by the sheriff’s department did not provide details on what bicycle infraction Mr. Kizzee reportedly violated.
The Coalition for Community Control over the Police is calling for an organized response. “We feel that the solution is to establish community control over the police department, that we need to bring democracy to policing,” Mr. Smith said. “There needs to be an elected board of civilians that have absolute authority over law enforcement agencies that operate in these communities.”
Ms. Abdullah said modest reform is not going to work. “We need to build Black communities and divest from policing. Policing doesn’t bring us safety. Our communities bring us safety,” she said.
Ms. Abdullah said protests will continue and that Black Lives Matter LA demands the deputies be prosecuted. “Bigger than that, we want them removed from our communities,” she said. “We want an investment, intervention and prevention and the removal of the sheriff’s deputies from our neighborhood.”
Student Min. Muhammad said one positive out of the situation is Black and Brown unity and gangs settling their differences. He also noted that God is proving to the Black community that it is impossible to get along in peace with White people and their system and that Black people are now calling for separation, which is in line with the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“The police been killing us. It’s never stopped. And no shouting, no marches, no trying to force Black Lives Matter to a person who, by nature, your life don’t matter to them,” he said.
“The only thing that’s going to change them is the total destruction of the fall of America, and until we have our own, we’re going to continue to suffer this kind of treatment.”