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Family of slain Long Beach man outraged over police shooting, plans to file suit [Updated]

December 14, 2010 | 10:51 am

Candlelight vigil for Douglas Zerby, December 13, at the scene of a Sunday officer-involved shooting.

The family of a 35-year-old Long Beach man shot and killed by police while holding a hose nozzle plans to file a lawsuit against the Long Beach Police Department, the slain man's father said Tuesday.

Doug Zerby, 35, was killed Sunday while sitting on a stoop playing with what police said appeared to be a weapon and pointing it as if it were a gun. But Zerby's family said the police acted irresponsibly, and they are outraged over what happened.

“This has got to stop,” said Mark Zerby. “If we have police doing this stuff, they need to be thoroughly screened. We’re hiring them to protect our lives, not take our lives.”

An evening vigil at the scene of the shooting Monday brought out droves of supporters with candles, flowers and messages.

Several mourners yelled “murder” to passing spectators and wrote invectives to Long Beach police on posters near the candlelight. One message read: "LBPD = Shoot First Ask Questions Later That’s Murder."

Zerby had been sitting on a friend's porch Sunday afternoon, waiting for the friend to come home because he was too drunk to drive. A neighbor saw him waving around a gun-like object and called the police.

Police officials said the object was actually a pistol-grip water nozzle, and when it was pointed directly at an officer, the officers opened fire, killing Zerby at the scene.

The police department, which has a history of frequent officer-involved shootings, had no new information Tuesday morning.

“All this information is preliminary,” said Sgt. Dina Zapalski, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department. “We can’t have exact answers on everything within 24 hours.”

[Updated at 2:18 p.m.: The family is beginning to conduct its own investigation into the incident, relatives said.

“We’ve hired a private doctor to investigate my brother’s body, a photographer to shoot photographs of him and the crime scene, and a team of private forensic investigators is being assembled,” said Zerby’s sister Eden Marie Biele.

She said her family has been approached by at least nine attorneys, over the phone and in person, hoping to represent the family. She said they will be spending the day deciding which one to retain.

“We feel that this is a case of wrongful death. My brother was murdered in cold blood,” she said. “The Long Beach Police Department needs to be held accountable, and justice needs to prevail on behalf of my brother.

"Hopefully we can help them prevent another family from having to go through another tragedy like this.”]

RELATED:

Man killed by Long Beach police was holding water nozzle, not gun

-- Nardine Saad

Photo: Candlelight vigil for Douglas Zerby, a Long Beach native shot and killed by police, on Monday. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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