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Witness says man had hands on head when shot by deputies

November 29, 2012 |  9:50 am

Estefani, 18, says she witnessed a deputy-involved shooting in Willowbrook on Nov. 10. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

An 18-year-old woman who officials believe may be the sole witness to the officer-involved shooting of a Culver City man has told investigators that the victim was standing with his hands on his head when he was shot and killed.

Her account sharply contradicts Los Angeles County deputies' statements that they fired only after Jose de la Trinidad, an unarmed 36-year-old father of two, reached for his waistband.

The witness told The Times that she watched the Nov. 10 shooting — and the events that led up to it — from her bedroom window. She has been interviewed twice by sheriff's investigators, telling them that De la Trinidad complied with the deputies' orders to stop running and raised his hands to surrender.

She said that two of the three deputies on the scene then opened fire seconds later, seemingly without provocation.

"I know what I saw," said Estefani, who asked that her last name not be used out of fear of being harassed by media outlets. "His hands were on his head when they started shooting."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department maintains that the deputies opened fire only after De la Trinidad appeared to reach for his waist, where he could have been concealing a weapon. Authorities did not comment on Estefani's account other than to say it would be included in the final report on the shooting.

Estefani, who lives directly across the street from where the shooting occurred, said that just after 10:20 p.m. Nov. 10, the sound of a car screeching to a stop jerked her attention to her bedroom window.

Two sheriff's deputies had attempted to pull over De la Trinidad and his brother for speeding as they were leaving a family quinceañera. De la Trinidad's brother was driving the car and fled for a few blocks before the car came to a sudden stop in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street in Willowbrook, a residential neighborhood tucked just off the 105 Freeway.

According to the deputies' account, De la Trinidad jumped out of the passenger seat.

His brother, 39-year-old Francisco de la Trinidad, took off again in the car. One of the four deputies on the scene gave chase in his cruiser, leaving Jose de la Trinidad on the sidewalk and three deputies standing in the street with their weapons drawn.

The deputies said Jose de la Trinidad then appeared to reach for his waistband, prompting two of them to fire multiple shots into the unarmed man. He died at the scene.


Homicide Report: Jose de la Trinidad

Family of man shot by deputies calls for FBI probe

Widow of man slain by L.A. County deputies defends him

-- Wesley Lowery

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

Photo: Estefani, 18, says she witnessed a deputy-involved shooting in Willowbrook on Nov. 10. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times