Michael Nida was shot in the back, coroner says

DOWNEY - According to an autopsy report released by the L.A. County Coroner, Michael Nida, the 31-year-old South Gate resident who was struck down by Downey Police on Oct. 22, was in fact shot twice in the back, confirming what family members have said since the initial days following the shooting.The report also confirms that Nida sustained four gunshot wounds, attributable to three rounds of fire. In addition to the two fatal shots to the left side of his back, Nida was also hit in the back of the arm and on his left wrist. However, the wrist wound may have been caused by the re-entry of another gunshot, according to the report. In the coroner's description, deputy medical examiner Ajay Panchal detailed the four gunshot wounds that ultimately killed Nida. Both the first and second shots to Nida's back went in "left to right, back to front" in an upward trajectory relative to the position of Nida's body. The third shot to the back of Nida's left arm also came from behind Nida, according to the report. Family and friends of Nida are not surprised by the report, which confirms much of what the family has purported since the shooting, which took place near the corner of Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard. "This is something we've been certain of the whole time. It reinforces our belief that it's been a cover up," said Damien Ramirez, Nida's close friend since childhood. "This is starting to look more and more like an anger killing." The coroner's findings are contrary to those originally reported by Lt. David Dolson of the LA County Sheriff's Department, who insisted Nida was not shot in the back after members of the Nida family said Nida was shot five times from behind. "Reports that Nida was shot five times in the back are inaccurate," said Dolson last October. Members of the Nida family later revealed that the information came from staff at St. Francis Medical Center, where Nida was pronounced dead. Dolson, a LA County Sheriff's Department homicide detective, now says he was just trying to point out that the shots were not fired straight into Nida's back. Ramirez believes the trajectory of the bullets is just another suspicious element of the shooting. "Mikie was shot at an upward angle, it's hard to get that angle if someone's not on the ground or falling to the ground," he said. "There was no justification for this. Someone has to stand up and say no more of this." The report also indicates that Nida had marijuana in his system the night of the officer-involved shooting. According to the family, Nida used medicinal marijuana occasionally for chronic back pain. "Mikie was completely legal, he had a legitimate prescription," said Ramirez. "He was a dry waller and it was hell on his back. It was legal for him to medicate that way - it worked for him." Ever since Nida was killed by a Downey Police officer, friends and family have attended nearly every City Council meeting, joining forces with local civil rights organizations to both protest his death and petition city officials to reform public safety policies. Ramirez is cautiously hopeful that the coroner's report will help produce justice for the Nida family while ultimately spurring changes in local law enforcement tactics. "Hopefully, people will open their hearts and realize the whole time, Mikie really was a victim of police brutality," said Ramirez. "There's a lot the City Council can do. They know, we know so why are we not on the same page?" Homicide detectives at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are still investigating the fatal shooting, which left Nida dead after he struggled with Downey officers who suspected he may have been involved in a nearby ATM robbery. After eluding police twice, Nida fled but was shot four times after turning towards officers "in an aggressive manner." Police later acknowledged, however, that Nida, the father of four, was not involved in the robbery and was unarmed. The sheriff's investigation should be finished within the next two or three weeks. When the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the District Attorney's Office.

********** Published: February 23, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 45