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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.”]

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

 
Comments () | Archives (156)

My condolence to the family. However this quote is very telling, "Our brother was killed for no reason," she said. "We're outraged. You can't get drunk in the city of Long Beach and not get shot?" Drunk or not, one must still take responsibility for their actions. Pointing a gun like object at a police officer is about as irresponsible of a thing that you can do. Police officers put themselves in the line of duty every day for our protection. They have families too.

I have never seen a water hose nozzle that looks like a gun. Some have handles but none of them are shaped with the appearance of a trigger. Why not take cover behind the car doors and talk the man down? With a little time they would have noticed the guy is under the influence of something and did not have a gun. The nosy neighbor should feel pretty bad about now. If he actually had a toy gun I could understand but a hose nozzle.

One more irresponsible and wanton killing by our men in uniform. Thousnads of similar 'murders' take place each year. We have more to fear from our police than we do from criminals. Comare the ratio of 'civilian' murders with police killings. End of story.

There is no "winner" to this sad story. IF it had been a gun, then we would be reading about the loss of a police officer. In the span of mere seconds, an officer must decide on what action to take. Now, the city will have to defend itself, costing the taxpayers quite a bit of money that we don't have - on an action that might have been prevented.

Another s taxpayer expense. The family left behind will reap all the profit in millions. This is all about greed from the family. If they are sincere, they should just put the policeman in jail or make him pay personally. Not the Taxpayers.

I have an idea: Don't point things that look like guns at police, as if it were a gun. I have a very hard time believing that this cop woke up that morning and said to himself, "I think I'll kill an innocent person today."

I think MOST people would agree that the police must act defensively , but my argument is why can't they use NON-LETHAL tactics or at the bare minimum shoot to maim and not to kill. There needs to be a drastic over haul in the methods used to perform their jobs. May God bless and console his family.

Have you seen a photograph of the hose nozzle?
It looked very gun-like to me.

Why did Mr. Zerby point the nozzle at the policeman?

This is a sad terrible tragedy and it is understandable that the slain man's family is beyond upset. However, they may want to look at the situation from the police point of view.

This is just a very bad confluence of events.

"The police department, which has a history of frequent officer-involved shootings..."

Sounds to me like the town needs to take control of their PD.

While a sad time for the Zerby family, the police responded to what was a potentially dangerous call, a male waving and pointing with what appeared to be a weapon, and utilized the level of force required to protect themselves and the public. The excuse of he was drunk doesn't fly. When an officer has only seconds to analyze a situation to determine if he is in mortal danger, waiting is not always an option. It has already been stated, this was a situation of Mr. Zerby's making.

If there is outrage, it should be made towards Mr. Zerby and his inebriated condition. It appeared that he had the wherewithall to wait for a friend to pick him up because he was too drunk to drive, why would he be pointing something that looked like a gun at passersby, and especially at the police? STUPID DRUNK ACTIONS = TRAGIC RESULTS.

I wonder what the comments would be if it had indeed been a gun and a police officer had been killed.

"A neighbor saw him waving around a gun-like object and called the police. "

What would you do if you responded to a call of a man with a gun and someone points an object that looks like one at you? Cops don't just go around killing people because they have nothing better to do. Nobody wakes up and goes to work HOPING they'll have to shoot someone that day.

A few years ago a police officer on stake out in W. Memphis Arkansas kills an eleven year old who pointed a toy gun at him. Happened about 10PM. Is the police officer suppose to wait to determine if it's not a real gun? Get shot first? Family has sued the cop and the police department.

This year two cops in the same department pull over a van for expired tags or speeding. A kid gets out with an assault rifle and kills both of them? Should they have had their guns drawn? Would that have been enought against an assault rifle? I doubt it.

This is what cops have to deal with everyday - is it real or is it fake? I will not second guess these guys. The drunk and the kid were obviously clueless.

Since when is being drunk and playing with a water nozzle a crime deserving of being shot by police?

Condolences to the family.

I truly hope justice will be served.

However, when the perpetrators are the police... we know the outcome.
They will get away with anything and everything.

Yet another example of how addiction and drug abuse kills. This isn't a police issue. It's clearly a drug-related case. Directly drug-related. Alcohol is a drug. The guy pointed a nozzle that looks exactly like a gun at the cop. Look for a picture of it. It looks EXACTLY like a gun. I hate when people say, "drugs and alcohol" like they're two separate things. They're not. The guy was high on a drug (alcohol) and pointed what looked exactly like a gun at a cop. The cop did the right thing and acted appropriately. It's horribly sad that the guy died. No one deserves that. But the only one to blame here is the drunk who pointed the nozzle at the cop. He's yet another victim of a horrible drug that's kills millions of people world-wide each year; alcohol.

I keep reading all these comments that side for the Police and side for the Family. The bottom line is that this was a tragic shooting by a Police department that truly has no regard for Human Life!
The fact that the victim was drunk and holding a water nozzle does not justify the LBPD to take his life. Police Officers will always use the excuse that they felt threatend as a means to shoot and kill! That's wrong LBPD!!

Stupid neighbor. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. your not knowing police loving has cost this man his life.

I have a hard time accepting, on face value, that he was pointing the sprinkler at the cops. They did NOT act appropriately, they acted with haste and disregard. Almost any situation like this can be diffused with a tazer, good tactics and quick thinking. I guess the cops that came to the call didn't bring any of those things with them.
Shame on the neighbor for not being smarter about it. I have the same kind of nozzle and no way any rational person would think it's a gun.
LBPD do this so frequently. It is really sickening.

To @westsidejesse, who said, "Thugs or not, we are all human beings."

Are you freakin' kidding me? By definition, thugs do what they do at the expense other people. They rob, carjack, beat up, bully, and murder because it's what they want to do. People are thugs because they choose to be, period.

Tell you what, Jesse. I'm willing to give thugs the same break they gave their victims. None.

This is the ultimate conclusion in a big government police state. So what if a guy gets drunk and plays with a water nozzle?. The police are trained in evaluating situations. They had numerous opportunities to both determine if the man was a threat (which he wasn't) determine what he was holding (they were no more than 20 feet away), and lastly they could have ordered him to 'drop the weapon'. But no, in the new age of oppression in which we live.....they took none of those simple steps. Instead they >>>MURDERED<< And don't forget folks, these gang members with badges are enjoying the fruits of your labor with their fat pensions, even after these monsters are convicted.

Both the neighbor who called police and the involved officers believed the pistol-grip water nozzle was a handgun. In this case the officer reacted to his training techniques instead of wait to get shot. If you want to play the what "if" game then what if the pistol-grip water nozzle turned out to be a real weapon. Should the offficer had waited to get shot first then ask questions later?..Not

Where are the squeals about racism?.....oh.....the dead guy was white.

I'd sue them just cuzz I hate cops.

There was no excuse for the police shooting this guy with six rounds from handguns and two shotgun blasts. They weren't acting in self-defense, they were trying to obliterate the victim. I feel very badly for the family.

Maybe the cops should use their senses more and their emotions less.
It's pure stupidity to shoot a man on a porch with or without a damn hose just because a neighbor called.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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