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Sheriff's watchdog to investigate shooting of Compton teenager by deputy

March 8, 2011 |  5:50 pm

The official watchdog agency for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will be taking a second look at the fatal 2009 shooting of a Compton teenager by a deputy after new evidence surfaced last week that may contradict the deputy’s account of the incident.

The Office of Independent Review had previously endorsed an internal sheriff’s probe that concluded the shooting was within policy.

Michael Gennaco, who heads the agency, said Tuesday the incident warrants another look after attorneys for the boy's family presented a video that they say shows the deputy touching the teen’s body after the shooting, contradicting sworn statements he made in court.

“If there is evidence that contradicts the deputy’s impressions, that’s something that needs to be looked at,” Gennaco said.

Sheriff’s officials say 16-year-old Avery Cody pointed a gun at the deputy –- but attorneys for the teen’s family say that the gun was planted on him, and that the gun powder residue found on his hands was there because the deputy touched him.

A copy of the new video was reviewed by The Times last week. The grainy, shaky footage appears to show a deputy standing over Avery's body.  The man cannot be definitively identified as Deputy Sergio Reyes, but he has a similar body frame and skin tone.

The deputy in the footage, taken by a passerby, appears to briefly bend down twice to touch the body. It is unclear what the deputy was doing or whether he actually made contact with Avery's body.

John Sweeney, the family's attorney, announced the existence of the video during a wrongful death trial last week -- the first time the judge or defense attorneys had heard about it. The judge promptly declared a mistrial because the evidence hadn’t been shared with the defense previously.

Reyes' attorney, Eugene P. Ramirez, said his client was not intentionally lying, and was likely just shaken up after a traumatic experience.

Avery and three other teenagers were walking back from lunch in July 2009 when Reyes and another deputy stopped the group and started to check them for weapons. Avery and another boy ran. Sheriff's officials say Avery turned and pointed a handgun at Reyes, prompting the deputy to shoot.

A .38-caliber revolver was recovered next to Avery's body, sheriff's officials said. Witnesses in the civil case have testified they didn't see the teen holding a gun, but say he may have been holding a cellphone. Sheriff’s officials have said they interviewed witnesses who said Avery was holding a gun.

The new footage, Sweeney said, marks the second instance in which Reyes' account of the shooting and its aftermath has been contradicted by video evidence. The other was when his statement that he took cover behind a metal newspaper rack was refuted by surveillance video from a nearby doughnut shop.

Sweeney welcomed the agency’s decision to take a second look.

“It’s clear what happened here,” he said. “This was a bad shooting ... it just takes a little scratching under the surface to get to the bottom of this.”

Added sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore: “The sheriff has no issues with the OIR looking at any case at any time. That is why he created them.”

-- Robert Faturechi

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