A Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a 27-year-old woman, who had called for help after being attacked by her ex-boyfriend. Records show the officer had killed another person three years ago under similar circumstances.
The woman, Niani Finlayson, had called 911 on Dec. 4 after her former boyfriend refused to leave her alone. During the call, sounds of a struggle could be heard, as well as screaming in the background.
When officers arrived at the Lancaster apartment, they could also hear the screaming from the building.
According to the family’s attorneys, Finlayson was inside the apartment with her nine-year-old daughter, and had been injured, which was why she had called the police in the first place – so they could remove him from the home.
The LASD is not entirely sure what led up to the fatal shooting. They have also refused to release footage from the body camera.
In a statement, the LASD said Finlayson was holding a knife and had been threatening her former boyfriend, when the officer, Ty Shelton, opened fire.
Her family has since disputed the account from the police, emphasizing that she was an obvious domestic violence victim who required help and had posed no threat to the police.
Her official cause of death was “multiple gunshot wounds”, according to the coroner.
The 27-year-old was a mother of two, and her nine-year-old daughter, Xaisha, was with her at the scene when she was fatally shot.
During the press conference on Thursday, Xaisha, who was accompanied by her grandparents, expressed that the police were lying and that her mom was not threatening them. She also called for the officer in question, Ty Shelton, to be prosecuted.
Xaisha described her mother as “[her] best friend” and that “she was always there for [her].” She also said her two-year-old sister has been asking non-stop for their mother since the incident and she has no idea what to tell her.
That same day, Finlayson’s family filed a legal claim against the sheriff’s department, alleging assault, wrongful death, and civil rights violation.
The family’s attorney, Bradley Gage, said Finlayson was obviously in need of help but instead of receiving assistance, was “hunted and killed” by officers who “protect and serve [its citizens].”
In a later statement, the LASD said they had not yet received the family’s claim. However, they said they would be releasing the footage from the body camera next week. The inspector general’s office will also be conducting a full-on investigation to determine whether or not policies and procedures from the department were being followed.
Shelton could not be reached for comment and his union also did not respond to an inquiry.
In 2020, Shelton had shot and killed 61-year-old Michael Thomas, under similar circumstances. He had arrived at his home after responding to a domestic violence call and had demanded that they open the door.
He eventually opened fire on Thomas, who was unarmed, after arguing, according to Thomas’ girlfriend. Thomas, who was fatally shot in the chest, was pronounced dead at the scene. The killing was not captured on body camera and had launched a series of protests after prosecutors did not press charges against Shelton.