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Family wants LA DA to prosecute Downey police officer that shot unarmed man, mistaken for another suspect

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

A small group of family and friends of Michael Nida, 31, shot and killed by Downey police last year in October picketed out the L.A. District Attorney's office at the downtown LA courthouse asking for criminal charges against the shooting officer.

Relatives and friends of a man killed in an officer-involved shooting picketed Monday afternoon outside the downtown Los Angeles criminal courts building. The family, wearing orange shirts that read "Justice for Michael Nida," called on the L.A. County District Attorney to file criminal charges against a Downey police officer that shot Nida with a machine gun last October.

“It’s been 11 months since my brother was killed by the Downey police,” said Terri Teramura. “The DA has not made a decision on whether to prosecute Officer Gilley.”  

Nida, 31, and his wife pulled into a gas station in Downey the evening of Oct. 22, 2011. Not long before, officers had heard reports of an armed robbery at a nearby ATM and searched for the suspect. Police thought Nida matched the suspect description and tried to detain him but he managed to jump neighborhood fences and lead police on a short chase. At some point, Downey police said Nida made an aggressive move toward them and Office Steve Gilley fired five fatal shots. 

Jean Thaxton raised Nida since he was a baby and considers him to be like a biological son. She and her husband were grocery shopping that night before Nida called to say he and his wife would be by to drop off their four children they so they could celebrate his birthday in Hollywood. Nida would have turned 32 years old three days after he was shot.

 “I wished I had been late because it was five minutes to 7 p.m. and we went ahead and rushed home,” Thaxton said. “He left the house and within half an hour he lay dead on the concrete.”

Nida did not have a weapon on him. His family said he probably ran from the cops because he had some marijuana on him.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting. It's forwarded the investigation to the District Attorney’s office, which does not plan to comment until the probe is over. 

“We’re hoping that Steve Cooley prosecutes Officer Gilley just like Tony Rackauckas prosecuted the two officers in Fullerton,” Termaura said referring to the Orange County district attorney's response to an incident in which transient Kelly Thomas died after a confrontation with three Fullerton police officers.

This isn't the first protest for Michael Nida. Termaura said she and others protest in Downey almost every week and show up at Downey city council meetings. The family has enlisted the help of attorney Dale Galipo. He's handled several police shooting cases including the Pasadena police shooting of Kendrec McDade in March and a case settled last week against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court. Their trial date is scheduled for next May.

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