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Family of man slain by deputies says investigators pressured witness

The family of a man shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in Compton asked the FBI on Monday to investigate his death and accused the Sheriff's Department of telling a witness to change her story.

Jose de la Trinidad, 36, was shot and killed by deputies Nov. 10, just minutes after leaving his niece's quinceañera. He was unarmed.

Officials say two deputies attempted to stop the car carrying Trinidad — which was being driven by his older brother, Francisco — as it sped along Wilmington Avenue. Francisco de la Trinidad did not pull over but led deputies on a chase before abruptly stopping in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street.

Jose de la Trinidad "quickly" exited the passenger seat and lifted his hands, a sheriff's official said.

Authorities said he appeared to be raising his hands from his waistband. Believing he was armed, deputies opened fire and fatally shot Jose de la Trinidad.

Family members have insisted he was lifting his empty hands to his head to surrender, and attorney Luis Carrillo said in a news conference Monday that a witness told investigators that Jose de la Trinidad's hands were behind his head when he was shot. 

That witness, a 19-year-old woman who saw the shooting from her bedroom window, was then pressured by investigators to confirm their story that Jose de la Trinidad was reaching for his waistband, Carrillo said.

"It's the classic 'He was reaching for his waistband' defense that is used any time an officer shoots an unarmed man," Carrillo said. "They tried to get her to change her story."

Sheriff's Department officials have released few additional details about the shooting and say the incident will be fully investigated by multiple agencies, standard protocol for all deputy-involved shootings.

Carrillo said he wants all investigators involved in the shooting to be included in the FBI probe. 

Rosanna de la Trinidad said her husband was a "hard-working man who didn't deserve this." The couple's 6-year-old daughter was struggling with his death; their 3-year-old didn't understand what had happened.

"We were celebrating a special tradition, a big celebration, and then it ended up turning into a tragedy," she said.

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-- Wesley Lowery

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

 
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