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Josue Narciso Fuentes, 22

Josue Narciso Fuentes, a 22-year-old Latino, was shot and killed by police officers Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, in the area of Victory Boulevard and Haskell Avenue in Van Nuys, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

Fuentes was shot when he refused to drop a knife he had been using on himself, and “became aggressive” toward an officer, according to a news release from the Los Angeles Police Department.

His parents, Maria Del Carmen Rivas and Jose Diaz, are contesting the police narrative in a $15-million lawsuit they filed Jan. 22 in U.S. District Court. The suit accuses the city of Los Angeles, the LAPD and the two officers involved in the shooting, Officer II Abdias Velasco and Officer II Cesar Gutierrez, of wrongful death, negligence, using excessive force and conspiracy to violate Fuentes’ civil rights.

As of June 4, 2015, the LAPD is still investigating the incident and has not issued a formal report. Details have come from an LAPD news release and the coroner’s records, which include information the medical examiners received from the LAPD Force Investigations Division detective assigned to investigate the case, said Ed Winter, the coroner's assistant chief of investigations.

The incident began when witnesses called 911 about 2:45 p.m. to report a man standing in the middle of the street stabbing himself, according to the coroner’s office. Officers reported that the man, later identified as Fuentes, was holding a knife to his neck as he walked eastbound on Victory Boulevard toward the 405 Freeway, according to the LAPD news release.

When the officers approached him, the coroner’s records said, Fuentes ran north up Haskell, leaving a bloody trail on the sidewalk, and then jumped over a chain-link fence on the east side of Haskell into a drainage ditch.

The officers "pleaded" with Fuentes to stop cutting himself and to put down his knife, according to the LAPD release, but Fuentes allegedly ignored their commands.

"At some point, the man became aggressive toward the officers," the release alleged, "and an officer-involved shooting occurred."

According to the coroner’s records, one of the officers jumped into the ditch after Fuentes and pulled out his Taser to subdue him. When Fuentes came to the end of the ditch, he turned around and started running toward the officer, according to the coroner’s report.

Fuentes allegedly “refused commands to stop or drop his knife,” according to the report, and the officer pulled his gun and fired four times "until the decedent stopped and fell to the ground."

Los Angeles County firefighters pronounced Fuentes dead at the scene at 3:20 p.m. He died from his gunshot wounds, Winter said, but he also had superficial cut marks on his hands and arms and what appeared to be a "penetrating wound" on his throat.

According to the coroner’s report, “a bloody knife with an approximately two-inch blade was found on the left side of the body, partially covered in gravel and dirt."

The lawsuit, filed by Beverly Hills attorney Mark Balali, disputes the police story.

"According to an eyewitness, at the time of the shooting, Fuentes was fully compliant to the defendants’ [police officers’] orders, had his hands up in the air, and certainly was not aggressive toward the defendants,” the lawsuit said.

The eyewitness is not identified.

The LAPD news release says police officers immediately called paramedics, but the lawsuit claims that officers Gutierrez and Velasco “failed to summon emergency medical assistance … in a reasonable time period” until they “had a chance to meet among themselves and try to fabricate a false basis so as to justify the shooting and killing of Fuentes.”

The city attorney has denied the lawsuit’s allegations in its response to the court. A jury trial has been scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016.

Balali said in an interview that Fuentes was a student at Pierce College who lived with his mother and sister in Van Nuys, worked as a medical assistant and “had no documentation of any mental health problems.”

He said he couldn’t explain why Fuentes had been cutting himself that day, “but the knife had just a two-inch blade, so he obviously wasn’t posing a threat to anyone else but himself.”

-- Jeanette Marantos

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