Crime & Justice

Jury says Anaheim officer improperly used deadly force

File: Alex, 18, lights a candle for his friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
File: Alex, 18, lights a candle for his friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

A federal jury says an Anaheim police officer used excessive force in shooting an unarmed gang member in 2012 — a death that sparked angry protests.

The Orange County Register reports that jurors ruled Thursday in a lawsuit filed by the mother of 25-year-old Manuel Diaz.

He was shot in the back after running from the officer down an alley.

Officer Nick Bennallack testified that he fired after Diaz ignored commands to stop and appeared to be reaching for a gun in his waistband. Diaz didn't have a weapon.

The shooting of Diaz and another man on consecutive days led to four nights of looting and raucous street protests.

In a statement after the verdict, Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said the city believes the officer acted reasonably:

"We acknowledge the jury’s decision and thank jurors for their time and consideration. This case shows the difficulty and complexity of situations our police face, and we believe they acted reasonably. Regardless, any loss of life in Anaheim is tragic, and our hearts go out to the family and all involved. We have not made any determination on next steps as of this moment and await the next phase of the trial."