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No charges against Downey officer who shot unarmed man, D.A. says

October 24, 2012 |  8:14 am

Michael NidaMichael Nida, a 31-year-old father of four, was getting gasoline with his wife on his way to dinner when he ran across Imperial Highway to get cigarettes in October 2011.

He was detained by police as he came out of the tobacco shop after he was mistaken for a suspect in an armed robbery at a nearby Bank of America ATM. Initially he cooperated but then, "suddenly and inexplicably" ran from officers, prosecutors said. Officers reported he hopped fences and eluded them.

Within 10 minutes, Officer Steven Gilley and another officer detained Nida in an alley behind a Walgreens. Gilley ordered Nida to show his hands and when he did not, Gilley said he feared the other man had a weapon, a prosecutor wrote.

Seconds later, Nida "actively resisted arrest when he jumped up from a prone position on the ground, forcing Gilley to his knees" and ran again from officers. The officers, according to the prosecutor, did not have a chance to search Nida before he ran.

Believing Nida was armed and dangerous, Gilley fired a three-round burst from his tactical submachine gun, killing Nida, prosecutors said.

Now the L.A. County district attorney's office has found that Gilley acted lawfully and will not face criminal charges. Nida, of South Gate, was shot in the back.

The shooting led to regular protests at Downey City Council meetings and a lawsuit by Nida's family, claiming he was wrongfully killed and his civil rights were violated. The suit also calls for Gilley to be fired and charged.

Prosecutor Stephanie Sparagna, however, wrote that Nida repeatedly resisted arrest and ran from police three times. He also ignored warnings from police, including one from the officer that he would "blow his head off" if Nida did not show his hands.

Sparagna found that Gilley reasonably feared Nida and was armed and dangerous, even though he eventually was determined not to be the robbery suspect and was unarmed. Sparagna said Gilley was required to make a split-second decision.

"Given the rapidly evolving, dangerous situation that confronted Officer Gilley, we conclude that Officer Steven Gilley was justified in using deadly force to prevent Nida's escape," she wrote in the report released Tuesday.

Terri Teramura, Nida’s sister, condemned Sparagna's findings.

"This officer shoots someone in the back, running away from him. How clear-cut can a shooting be?" she said.

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-- Richard Winton

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