CCLA Staff | January 24, 2016
On May 26, 2014 Noel Aguilar was gunned down by two deputies of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department. He was riding his bicycle down the street wearing headphones when the deputies crossed paths with him going the opposite direction. On seeing the LACSD vehicle, Aguilar accelerated and made a turn, thereby exciting the attention of the officers, who made a U-turn and began pursuit. Mr. Aguilar turned his bicycle into an alley and abandoned it, continuing his flight on foot. The deputies disembarked their vehicle and continued their pursuit on foot, eventually apprehending, and then executing their suspect, but not until one deputy shot and injured his partner critically.
The primary question here is why? Yes, Mr. Aguilar was committing an infraction by operating a vehicle while wearing headphones. Yes, he attempted to flee and resisted arrest. Are these really reason enough to end a man’s life? The OC Register, a newspaper that has been accused of conservative bias and for serving as a mouthpiece for the LACSD and LAPD, claims Mr. Aguilar was a known gang member and riding through a “gang injunction” area. This is questionable information, as is the rest of the article due to the fact that the initial article said that the deputy was shot by Mr. Aguilar and a correction was not published until nineteen months after the first release. Excellent example of true journalistic integrity by the principal. How did the deputies involved recognize him if they were simply patrolling as they said? Were they specifically looking for him out of all the young Latino men in Long Beach? Without an answer to these, we must move on to the next questions.
According to accounts given by the sheriff’s deputies, they had already caught and searched Mr. Aguilar once during the events that occurred, but he had escaped them after they had confiscated a firearm that he had on his person. Why would he then carry another weapon in his waistband? Especially when riding a bicycle? One would think that would be fairly uncomfortable. And if it was not firmly secured, firmly enough to be QUITE uncomfortable on a bicycle, would it not have come loose somewhere during his flight from the police?
Next we will consider the footage. There are two videos which were shot from different angles. Essentially, though, they show the same thing. Two deputies struggling with a person who is face down on the ground, attempting to cuff the individual. One deputy repeatedly strikes the elbow of the person on the ground with a collapsible baton. The other deputy verbally abuses and threatens the suspect. The deputy has his pistol in his hand. (Don’t they teach firearms safety at the Academy?). At approximately 1m 12 sec. into the video, there is the report of a weapon being fired and the first deputy shouts that he has been shot. Next, more struggling, this time accompanied by accusations and denials of possessing a gun. Deputy two fires a shot into the person on the ground, then deputy one draws his weapon and puts three rounds into the back of the person on the ground. What part, if any, of this production is necessary?
In our opinion, the use of lethal force in this case was not only unnecessary; it was irresponsible, vicious, and downright lazy. Why would the authorities shoot a person multiple times over an infraction? Per the deputies own reports, the only thing that Mr. Aguilar was guilty of was operating a vehicle (his bicycle) while wearing headphones. This writer is certainly glad that the deputy who pulled him over for wearing headphones while driving his truck didn’t think that way. To say the least, this incident serves to exhibit the kind of sloppy and unprofessional police work that can have very serious consequences – in this case, a human being was deprived of their life. Perhaps the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department could benefit from better training in problem solving skills and de-escalation. Or perhaps courses in Constitutional Law. Or at least invest in Tasers. There would be fewer needless casualties that way…