Crime & Justice

Families take legal action against Long Beach police for fatal shootings

Relatives of John Del Real, 39, attend a news conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against Long Beach police for 'excessive force' on April 14, 2014.
Relatives of John Del Real, 39, attend a news conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against Long Beach police for 'excessive force' on April 14, 2014.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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The families of two men shot dead last year by officers with the Long Beach Police Department took legal action Monday against the city and the police department, claiming the officers involved use excessive force.

The fatal shootings occurred in a year that Long Beach police experienced a spike in officer involved shootings.

RELATED: Record-breaking crime dip in Long Beach - but officer-involved shootings rise

John Del Real, 39, was shot September 26th in East Long Beach by an undercover, plainclothes officer. His family filed a federal lawsuit Monday in which they claim Del Real was lured out of his home and then shot by the officer.

An unknown person called Del Real's cell phone several times telling him to go outside, according to the lawsuit. When he got to the back alley of his home, a dark truck pulled up.

“A plainclothes LBPD officer…emerged from the truck with his gun drawn,” according to the lawsuit. “At no time did [the officer] identify himself as a police officer. Without warning, [the officer] shot [Del Real] approximately three times, including at least one shot to the back of [Del Real's] head.”

Del Real's mother, Shirley Lowery, said her son thought someone wanted to fight him. She said the number from the repeated phone calls never matched any of the contacts saved in his phone.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my son,” Lowery said on Monday.

The Long Beach city attorney declined to comment on the lawsuit. Long Beach police have a different version of the shooting.

“Before assisting units could arrive, the subject approached the officer in a threatening manner while reaching in his waistband attempting to retrieve a shiny metal object,” according to a Long Beach police news release.

The plainclothes officer identified himself prior to the shooting, according to a Long Beach police statement released about one month after the shooting.

Police also said a small aluminum bat was found inside Del Real’s pants, and he was a known gang member. The department also said the shooting stemmed from an investigation into violent crime and narcotics activity in the neighborhood.

In the second case, the family of Rialto resident Tyler Woods has filed a claim against the city of Long Beach asking for $10 million. Police shot the unarmed 19-year old last year on the roof of a house.

Long Beach police officers pulled over a car for a traffic violation on November 19 around 2:30 a.m.

Woods, who was a passenger, gave false information to the officers and took off running, according to a Long Beach police news release. Officers chased Woods, who jumped fences and climbed on the roofs of buildings and on apartment balconies trying to escape, police said.

“Once on the roof, the suspect took a kneeling position and began to turn towards them,” the news release states. “Knowing the significant danger the suspect posed, being an armed robbery suspect in a previous crime, and they believed based on his actions he was armed, the officers discharged their weapons believing the suspect was about to fire at them.”

But family members said Monday that Woods was patted down after the traffic stop. They said he was trying to surrender before he was shot.

“Whether he ran or not, you knew he was unarmed,” his brother Trevor Woods said.

The claim – a necessary legal procedure before a lawsuit can be filed against a government agency in California – states Long Beach police officers “unjustly shot” Woods who “posed no risk of death or serious bodily injury to any person, including any officer.”

The claim is filed on behalf of Woods' son, Nye Woods, who is 22-months old.

“It’s been very hard to know that he was trying to give himself up and he was killed that way,” said his grandmother Alyce Woods on Monday.

The Long Beach city attorney declined to comment on the claim.

Officer-involved shootings by Long Beach police officers are on the rise. In 2012, there were nine shootings. In 2013, there were 22  - including three involving animals and four cases where weapons fired accidentally.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against City of Long Beach