Luke Liu, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for the shooting death of Francisco Garcia in 2016. Additionally, Liu has been charged with intentionally discharging a firearm. Liu, 40, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday, in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, reports the Los Angeles Times.
On February 24, 2016, Luke Liu while on duty, approached a vehicle he suspected to be stolen. Liu pulled into the 7-11 in Norwalk, CA and confronted 26-year-old Francisco Garcia, who was in the driver’s seat of an Acura Integra. Liu asked Garcia who the car belonged to and Garcia responded, “It’s none of your business,” according to a sheriff’s department report.
Garcia started to pull his car out and drive away. Liu claims that the car hit his knees and he saw Garcia reach into the back seat. Liu thought Garcia was reaching for a gun thus prompting him to draw his gun. After, he ran alongside the vehicle and fired seven shots into the car. Four shots hit Garcia and killed him. Liu performed CPR on Garcia until the paramedics arrived. Nonetheless, Garcia was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Prosecutors believe that it took an estimated 20 seconds between the initial confrontation and the shooting. They have a portion of the shooting on tape and a witness who believes Liu didn’t have to fire his gun. Moreover, investigators did not find a gun inside Francisco Garcia’s vehicle.
Luke Liu’s attorney, Michael Schwartz asserted Garcia disobeyed Liu as he tried to get away resulting in Liu getting “clipped” by his vehicle. Furthermore, Schwartz maintains Liu feared for his life causing him to shoot Garcia.
However, the District Attorney Jackie Lacey doesn’t believe the shooting was justified. “We believe the officer’s use of deadly force was unjustified and unreasonable under the circumstances,” she said.
Since the shooting, Liu has been placed on desk duty. The county has settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the Garcia family, paying them 1.75 million. An attorney for the Garcia’s, Kent Henderson said, “The family is deeply gratified that prosecutors are filing charges in this case.” As of Monday when the charges dropped, Liu had been placed on administrative leave from the force pending the outcome of the case. Liu had served as a sheriff for over 10 years.
Liu is the first Los Angeles County law enforcement officer in nearly 20 years to be charged with killing a civilian. Although there are many police shootings, charges are rare due to the high threshold in finding a police shooting unlawful. “It (charges) came as a shock to my client and even his caption,” Schwartz said.
The judge posted bail at 1.1 million dollars to which Schwartz argued for a reduction. The request was denied. Nevertheless, Luke Liu plans to make bail. If convicted, Liu can get up to 21 years in prison.