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

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.”]


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

Comments () | Archives (156)

My condolences to this guys family and friends too. It's always so sad and unfortunate when we lose a loved one, so I can understand their being angry. The guy pointed what looked like a gun at the police, they did not know otherwise and their lives were at risk, as they it everyday. This was no fault of the police. If this goes to court and they call for a jury trial, I would not be on the side of the family. The guy aimed an object what looked just like a gun at the police, it was their life or his. No time can be wasted for a quick reaction from the Police, and their job is the most dangerous because that gun the guy usually are real.

My condolences go to the families of Zerby; however, I'd have taken the same actions as an officer as the one who shot Zerby. Come on, who points an object that appears like a gun to an officer?

This is tragic and frightening.

If you saw the press conference you would know that the the officers were, by their own admission, undercover and did not make any attempt to contact the "suspect" before they shot him. They were waiting for backup before announcing themselves to the suspect. Why is this fact being left out??

That water nozzel looks like a gun , and the fact that there was a neighbor who called 911 who also thought it was a gun, should help keep the officers out of trouble.
The family could have helped prevent this, by getting their loved one treatment for his alcoholisim, Im sure if he was sober he wouldnt point anything at a cop.
Two police officers made the decision to shoot, so both officers felt they were in danger, I would have done the same. Im not waiting to eat a bullet to see if the gun is real or not.
What would you think of the cops if they hesitated to shoot, and it ends up costing a innocent person their life?
He killed himself. plain and simple. waste of time money and energy to go to trial with this,
I would want those cops in my neighborhood any day.

what about the busybody that called 911 saying this guy had a gun? should they bear any responsibility?

there must be democratic community control over the police. all-elected, all-civilian, police control boards with full authority over the departments in all aspects at all levels.

Seriously?! First off, Doug Zerby deserved it. Don't point anything at the cops that might look like a gun. People who say cops shouldn't of shot at him are just stupid. You try being a police officer, get called to a man with a gun and drunk, and the "object" is pointed at you. If I was a cop, I would of used all my bullets and shot that person for his stupidty at pointing it at the police in the first place. Don't be dumb, and you'll stay alive. Good job police, you get to go home and stay alive while dumb idoits like these will continue to make stupid comments and say they will sue.

Hmm, Im a cop and this drunk guy points this pistol shaped water shooter at me - i have 0.48 seconds to make a decision? im taking him out. perhaps the next time the policeman should ask "excuse me drunk guy, is that a gun or a pistol grip sprinkler shooter?

anyhow he brought enough attention to himself with this thing that the neighbor calls the police? family, listen good, yes its sad for you he is not here with us but what he did and what he got isn't the policemans fault. sorry

another scenario: "In Long Beach today two police officers were killed in the line of duty when they mis-took a garden hose sprayer that turned out to be a gun. Unfortunately we cannot know why these officers, clearly in potential danger, assumed that the item was not a gun. We regret their deaths but maybe more training is needed so in the future officers will not hestiate when their lives are actually in danger".
Just a thought on what another outcome could have been. When do the police actually get to NOT be in situations where if they die they are under-trained and if they live they are overly aggressive?

Hey, "Sad"-this is the deal. We hear cops comment all the time on the reason they took the badge, to protect and serve, to PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE. And I always hear them saying that-ALWAYS. But clearly, they were not man enough to approach a man with a water gun and try to diffuse the situation. Instead they shot. That doesn't sound like a hero to me. It sounds like a child.

To George Bailey: It is an unfortunate and tragic event that has occurred to this family. However George, the scenario you provided below is completely different from what actually happened. Of course if police see you holding a pistol grip sprinkler watering your lawn they're not going to shoot because it's connected to your hose! What's the worst you can do to them? Wet them? This gentleman was only holding the pistol grip sprinkler by itself, drunk, and pointed at the police with a two hand grip. The police were 30-40 feet away. Nowadays guns come in different shapes and form. In addition, the person who called the police obviously thought it was a gun and therefor requested for police to assist. What would you do George Bailey? Would you take out your taser? Baton? Think about that, even before you can reach for your taser the suspect would have discharged 5-10 rounds in your direction and your family would be the one feeling your loss and the fact that you're never going back home. Unfortunately, this gentleman made a decision to get drunk and point what appeared to be a gun and in this matter, the pistol grip sprinkler definitely resembled a gun. What would you do George Bailey to make sure you'll be the one to go back home to your family at the end of the day?

nice info..........

People, if you point an object that looks like a gun at police, taking an agressive stance, and ignoring commands, what do you think is going to happen? Here's my idea: Don't do that!

Police are accountable. I'm not saying that nothing bad is ever caused by them, but please use common sense and maybe assign some blame to the person to did something very dumb to endanger themselves.

The timeline and sequence of events presented by the police is completely wrong. My wife and I watched the entire incident unfold from the beach across the street, approximately 60 ft away. Initially, minutes after the first police cars arrive, we hear gun shots. Then, after many additional squad cars arrive, police surround the area from the ground as well as from a neighboring porch never once approaching Zerby to handcuff him and bring him to the ambulance as they say they did. He was allowed to bleed to death. There was no warning from the police (which we easily would have heard) and the ambulance arrives much later only to be kept far from the scene. Many others observed they events from the same vantage point we had and we were all in agreeement that the police never made an effort to assist him. The Long Beach police department commited murder on Sunday Dec 12, 2010.

To be more clear, according to the AP:
"McDonnell said the officers took positions to observe Zerby, who appeared intoxicated, and believed he had a gun as described by the callers, but focused on setting up containment of the area rather than contacting him.

The officers requested other officers, a helicopter, a K-9 team and a mental evaluation team, the chief said."

All of these actions by the police transpired AFTER the shots were fired!!

The officer acted reasonable. Any officer would have done the same. Officers have seconds to react to danger. They want to go home to their families every night. Its unfortunate but next time a drunk needs to think before they point an object that resembles a gun. Please don't judge before knowing all the facts. Unless you have been in that situation, you will know how difficult of a decision officers make every day they are out there protecting us..

Everything is wrong about this. Do you mean to tell me that these officers were not afforded enough protection by their police car, by body armor, etc., that they could not afford to say "POLICE! DROP IT!"???

Unfortunately, these cops will walk. They are afforded a window of opportunity by the use of deadly force policy that allows for their actions if they have a "reasonable fear" of receiving imminent serious bodily injury.

So, therein lies the quest: Determine just how "reasonable" that fear could have been under these circumstances.

We have seen the same conduct from officers under the "car-as-deadly-weapon" scenario with Zachary Champommier last June 24, and with Danroy Henry last Oct. 17.

Bottom line, there is a paranoia that forms part of the culture of law enforcement that breeds a "shoot first" mentality.

I can't believe how quick people are to say (in comments for the previous article) "this guy is an idiot and deserved to be shot". What the hell is wrong with you? Haven't you ever known someone who's been drunk?? Or even just confused???

The police are supposed to be the 'professionals', and therefore should KNOW how to deal with these situations. If shooting to kill every time there's suspicion someone is holding a firearm is now the norm, we are all in trouble. That is NOT reflective of proper training, and it is NOT professional. What makes it even more baffling is that the call itself specified that he may have a gun, so why weren't they prepared to disarm him without killing him?? Rubber bullets, tear gas, non-lethal shot, bullet proof vests, etc. etc. and this is all that 10 squad cars could come up with?

I have been understanding of the police's side in the past with some of these incidents, but there is NO excuse for this. If you or I sucked this much at our jobs we would have been fired long ago. I have several good friends who have been severely mistreated (involving injuries) by the LBPD for basically no reason ('jaywalking' on a flashing light and having a mellow house party), and it's obvious that this department is in a serious state of disarray.

How 'bout this...??



..officers approach suspect, and handcuff him. moments later, they discover the object he was holding was a garden hose nozzle..........they take off the handcuffs, write his name in their notebook, and go off t0 have dinner. suspect sits back down in chair, and passes out.....

I'm just sayin'......

To the poster who imagines being shot by police while watering his yard following a malicious 911 call - if you are standing in your yard with a sprinkler nozzle and hose watering your lawn, you would not be mistaken by police for someone holding a gun. This is much different than a drunk guy behind a railing holding and pointing a black metal nozzle as though it were a firearm. If you cannot tell the difference between these two situations, then your judgement is a way off.

In response to you George Bailey. Sorry but there is a HUGE difference between someone who is actually watering his lawn with a hose attached to a nozzle, than someone who is just holding a nozzle with no hose attached. For you to compare that to what happened to Mr. Zerby is foolish.

While I do sympathize with his family, I don't blame the police for acting the way they did. They get a call from someone in the neighborhood who reports a drunk person with a gun, and that person points what appears to be a gun at them, what are they supposed to do??? Wait for the shots to head their way before they pull their weapons???

All in all a very unfortunate occurrence for all involved.

In the middle of the night, a drunk man shows up on your neighbors porch, points a gun like object at authorities and wounds up shot to death. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

My condolences to the family of Mr. Zerby but I hardly think the authorities are completely to blame.

why should he be killed even if he may be holding a gun? They can't shoot his arm? Neighbor said they heard 15 shots. The COPS say that he was holding the water nozzle up. I think the cops aren't being truthful and are covering something up.

This was a moron who pointed something at cops, two-fisted, and acted as if he had a gun. This is NOT some paranoiac police state - this was an idiot threatening people. Cops are NOT paid to be shot, or even shot at. This was an idiot threatening and acting as if he had a gun. Sorry, but he was stupid and made a fatal mistake. The cops were justified; they are not supposed to wait and see if they get shot to find out if the guy has a gun or not. Note to all the morons out there: don't pretend to draw a gun on cops. Don't threaten cops, don't posture. And when told to drop what is in your hands, do it. You have a right to be stupid, you do not have a right to create even a potential hazard.

The City needs to sue the family for the cost of the bullets and paperwork in this incident.

Whats wrong with aiming lower torso, legs, something not immediatly lethal? It seems to me this could have been handeled on the officer's behalf in a much less lethal manner.

i dont understand how anyone can reason with the victim. if youre drunk and point something that looks like a gun at officers, expect to get shot.

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