Downey police may have shot, killed wrong man; family outraged

Downey police have admitted that a man who was shot to death Saturday night while an armed robbery investigation was underway may have been the wrong man. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney's Office have opened investigations.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Thomas said the shooting occurred around 7 p.m. Saturday. “Saturday evening, the 22nd of October, Downey officers were responding to a call of an armed robbery at an ATM machine.”

Thomas said Downey police briefly detained 31-year-old Michael Nida, but he got away. Sheriff's investigators say Downey police shot and killed Nida because he twice ran from them and approached them in a threatening manner.

“One of the officers during the foot pursuit saw the suspect turn toward him, and fearing for his safety fired his firearm at the suspect, striking him,” Thomas said. Nida was unarmed.

Family members said Nida had only jaywalked across a busy street to buy cigarettes as his wife bought gas near Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard, KCAL9 reported. They said they don’t know why he would run.

Police reportedly found a small amount of marijuana on him. Nida was the father of four children.

"Officers were responding to a robbery of a citizen on the street, " Downey police Sgt. Perry Miller said. "When they saw two suspects matching their descriptions, a pursuit started. When one suspect was confronted, he ran from the officers again, and that led to the officer-involved shooting."

Authorities said today Nida probably was not the suspect they were looking for, KCAL9 reported.

"He got taken off by authority. You know? By authority. By the law," friend Gabriel Sapien told KCAL9.

During the chase, Nida was detained twice, and escaped from Downey police twice, running through a subdivision near Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard, said investigators for the Los Angeles County sheriff, who have been brought in by Downey police to investigate.

"He said the individual was acting almost like a caged animal and that his actions were very aggressive, and he believed he was armed and he believed he was a dangerous to everybody around him," Lt. Dave Dolson of the sheriff's department told KCAL9. "The first time he fled from the officer he had not been patted down or checked for weapons."

Dolson said the second time Nida was caught, he was placed flat on the ground on his stomach but not patted down or searched.

A weapon was never recovered.

"You're supposed to trust them and be able to know that they're going to take care of you and then they do this. This isn't right," Nida's niece Veronica Garo said.

A sister of the man shot by police told CBS2 that her brother was uninvolved in the robbery.

"My brother and his wife were getting gas. He went across the street to get some cigarettes. He jaywalked, I guess. And the police saw him. Confronted him. I don't know what happened, but they shot him ... in the back. Five times. Killed him," Terri Teramura said.

Teramura said her brother had four children.

"Father of my grandchildren. My son. My baby. My baby. My baby," Nida's mother, Jean Gaxton said to KCAL9. "He was God's gift to me. He was God's gift, and he was taken away, not through any actions of his other than being afraid and running."

Sheriff's detectives were overseeing the investigation.

No information was made available about the underlying robbery.

This story incorporates information from KPCC wire services.

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