A 27-year-old woman, who called 911 to report that she was being attacked by her ex-boyfriend, was fatally shot by a Los Angeles county sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene, lawyers for her family and police officials said. Per The Guardian, the deputy who opened fire on Niani Finlayson also shot and killed another individual in a similar situation three years prior.
In a statement, the LA Sheriff’s Department (LASD) said the fatal December 7 incident occurred after Finlayson contacted police and “reported that her boyfriend would not leave her alone and then screaming and sounds of a struggle could be heard.”
The deceased woman’s family attorney said deputies who responded to the apartment in Lancaster heard screams, adding that Finlayson had also been injured by her ex-boyfriend at the time, and her 9-year-old daughter was also with her. The family attorney also said Finlayson wanted her ex-boyfriend to be taken out of the apartment.
But what led to deputy Ty Shelton fatally shooting Finlayson is yet to be disclosed. The LASD is also yet to make surveillance footage of the incident public. The LASD also said Finlayson was in possession of a knife and threatening her ex-boyfriend before Shelton shot and killed her. But her family said she was a domestic violence victim who required help and did not come off as a threat to the responding deputies.
“The police lied that my mom was threatening them,” Finlayson’s daughter, Xaisha, said at a press conference on December 22, per The Guardian. “She was my best friend. She was always there for me. It’s unbelievable that she’s gone and she’s not coming back. I miss my mom.”
Finlayson’s family has since brought a lawsuit against the county and sheriff’s department. They are accusing the defendants of wrongful death, assault, and civil rights violations.
“You have someone who is calling the police for help, and she gets killed by the police who she’s asking for assistance,” the family’s attorney, Bradley Gage, said. “If you call police for help, you think the officers are going to protect and serve you. You don’t expect them to hunt and kill you.”
The LASD said they’ve launched an investigation into the incident.