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Anaheim cop nicknamed 'Buckshot' shot unarmed man, suit says

October 9, 2012 |  2:02 pm

Photos: Protests in Anaheim over police shootings

The Anaheim police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in July, spurring unrest in the city, is a four-year officer who uses the nickname "Buckshot" when he participates in boxing contests, according to an amended wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city Tuesday.

Anaheim police have declined repeated requests by The Times to identify the officer involved in the July 21 shooting, citing safety reasons. But on Tuesday, attorneys for the family of Manuel Diaz amended their $50-million lawsuit to name Nick "Buckshot" Bennallack as the officer who allegedly fired the deadly shots that struck Diaz.

Attorney Dana Douglas said the officer was named because new causes of action were added, including wrongful death, negligence and negligent hiring. She said the department ignored repeated requests to  "take this officer off the streets while the district attorney investigates the Diaz shooting."

Photos: Protests in Anaheim over police shootings

Douglas said that despite the FBI, district attorney and department investigations, the officer returned to street duty less than two weeks after the shooting.

"This man should not be on the streets carrying a gun .... He is a violent cop: he belongs to a fight club, is nicknamed ‘Buckshot,’ and he shot an unarmed man in the back of the head," Douglas said. "In what universe is it OK to put such a man back on the street while he is being investigated for homicide? Apparently it’s OK in the alternate reality that is the culture of the Anaheim Police Department."

Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn said in an email that "Bennallack has returned to full duty and is assigned to our Operations Division. Anaheim named Bennallack rookie officer of the year in 2008."

Bennallack is an active heavyweight boxer who participates in public events against fighters from other police, fire and military units, according to the website of United Combat Assn., an amateur boxing organization for those public agencies.

Public anger over the shooting erupted as the wounded Diaz lay handcuffed on an apartment complex lawn as bystanders shouted at police to get him medical aid. Protesters tossed bottles, and officers fired bean bags and projectiles.

Residents became even angrier when a police dog bit at least one person. Police later said the dog had accidentally escaped from a police car's open window.

The incident involving Diaz, 25, was the first of two fatal officer-involved shootings in that weekend in Anaheim.

He was shot by one of two officers who spotted him while driving down an alley in the 600 block of North Anna Drive. Diaz and two other men fled on foot, authorities said.

"He was shot in the back of the leg area, brought to his knees before being shot in the head .... It was an execution-style shot," said another family attorney, Diana Lopez.

She said Diaz was left on the ground for too long without receiving medical attention. He died at a hospital a few hours after the shooting. The lawsuit contends the shooting was part of a pattern of abuse by Anaheim police against Latinos.

The shooting was the fifth fatal officer-involved killing in Anaheim this year and occurred in the heart of the city, which encompasses wealthy Anaheim Hills and dense, heavily immigrant apartment complexes on Anna Drive, known for gang activity.

Anaheim's police union has said the officers encountered "the documented gang member" who was holding a "concealed object in his front waistband with both hands."

Diaz then took off running, only to pull the object from his waistband and turn toward the officers, they said.

"Feeling that Diaz was drawing a weapon, the officer opened fire on Diaz to stop the threat," the union said.

Diaz has a criminal history that includes carrying a gun at a school.


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Latino leaders say Anaheim a 'powder keg' after police shootings

 -- Richard Winton

Follow Richard Winton (@LACrimes) on Twitter and Google+

Photo: Jose Herrera mourns the loss of his friend, Manuel Diaz, who was shot and killed by Anaheim police. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles Times