The family of a California man who was shot to death by police filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the city of Indigo, local newspaper the Desert Sun reported. The lawsuit claims an Indigo Police Department officer shot the 18-year-old without justification and obstructed evidence by deleting the video footage.
Sammy Villarreal was fatally shot in October during a car chase in an Indigo apartment complex parking lot, where police were investigating a report of a car theft. Police say once they arrived at the scene, they were able to locate the vehicle, which was being driven by Villarreal. They say they opened fire after Villarreal accelerated in reverse and crashed into a police vehicle. Villarreal was transported to the local hospital where he died a half hour later, according the the Desert Sun.
Villarreal's family claims in the lawsuit that the shooting was recorded on a security camera and camera phone, but that police seized and erased the footage. Police officials have never addressed whether the shooting was captured in a video recording. There are two other excessive-force lawsuits against the department involving separate incidents that remain outstanding, the Desert Sun reported.
— #AceBreakingNews (@AceBreakingNews) January 25, 2016
Discourse surrounding police brutality has spurred social movements across the country, following the high-profile 2014 cases of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of Eric Garner involving the New York Police Department.
There have been 53 people killed in the U.S. by police this year, according to data compiled by Britain's the Guardian. In 2015, 1,139 people were killed in incidents involving police.
The FBI announced last month that it would launch a system to track fatal police shootings by 2017.
“We are responding to a real human outcry,” said Stephen L. Morris, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. “People want to know what police are doing, and they want to know why they are using force. It always fell to the bottom before. It is now the highest priority.”