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Times coverage: Former LAPD officer on trial for 2008 shooting death of an autistic man

The family of a man shot and killed by an LAPD officer in 2008 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department and the former policeman, who was fired for dishonesty on another case.

Mohammed Usman Chaudhry was a 21-year-old autistic man who sometimes wandered away from his parent's home in favor of a transient existence on the streets in Hollywood.

DOCUMENTS: Read the use of force report filed by the Los Angeles Police Commission

On March 25, Officer Joseph Cruz spotted Chaudhry near Curson Avenue south of Sunset Boulevard and struck up a conversation with him. Chaudhry acted calmly and did not seem to pose a threat, authorities said. Cruz instructed his partner to return to the patrol car to run Chaudhry's name through a computer database for any outstanding warrants. From where the vehicle was parked, his partner could not see Cruz and Chaudhry clearly, court and police records show.

According to Cruz's account of the shooting contained in court and police records, Chaudhry suddenly reached into the front pocket of his sweatshirt, pulled out a knife with a nearly 4-inch blade and lunged at him. Cruz drew his gun and fired three shots in quick succession, and, with Chaudhry still on his feet, fired a fourth shot a second or two later. His partner saw Cruz fire only the fourth shot, and there were no other witnesses.

In opening statements to the jury Tuesday, Chaudhry’s family attorney Olu Orange said, "Today's case is about truth and the evidence will show that Joseph Cruz was fired from his position as an LAPD officer … that it was the city of Los Angeles that fired him … and the reason he was fired was that he was dishonest, that he would not tell the truth during an official investigation."

Reporter Joel Rubin has more on the story: L.A. defends officer who was fired for dishonesty

Photo: Mohammed Usman Chaudhry vigil. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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