The Downey police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man after he fled from police acted in lawful self-defense and in defense of others, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office announced today. The DA report, signed by L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, was released almost one year to the day that Michael Nida was killed after fleeing from officers.
The incident began at about 7:13 p.m. on Oct. 22 when a woman was robbed while using the Bank of America ATM at 7878 Imperial Highway. The woman gave conflicting suspect descriptions to police but the initial description included 2-3 black males in plaid shirts driving a white truck or car. The woman reported the men jumped over the fence at a nearby market.
Nida and his wife, Naily, had stopped at the Arco gas station on Paramount Boulevard and Imperial Highway on their way to dinner. As Naily pumped gas, Nida ran across the street to purchase cigarettes, according to the report.
At 7:41 p.m., a Downey police officer stopped Nida for jaywalking after noticing he "looked like a gang member." Nida was cooperative at first, sitting on the curb and even calling the officer "ma'am", but then, "suddenly and inexplicably," ran from Officer Blanca Reyes. He left the corduroy slippers he had been wearing behind.
"I got one running from me across Imperial and to the rear of Walgreens," Reyes broadcasted.
Nida ran across Imperial and through the Walgreens parking lot. A police officer spotted a male Hispanic - believed to be Nida - in the backyard of a home, hiding behind a fence. Using his cell phone, Nida called his wife, telling her, "The cops are chasing me. I don't know why. I didn't do (expletive). I hate cops. I hate cops." The call was then disconnected.
Nida jumped over a wall where he was confronted by officers Steven Gilley and Michael Powell. They ordered Nida to the ground at gunpoint.
After hesitating, Nida got on the ground but refused commands to show his hands, the report says. Gilley stepped on Nida's back, using both hands to point an MP5 submachine gun. Gilley ordered Nida to show his hands and threatened to "shoot or kill" him if he did "something stupid," to which Nida replied, "Go ahead and shoot me, go ahead and kill me," according to the report.
Nida then pushed up with his hands and got to his feet, causing Gilley to fall forward over Nida's shoulders onto "one or both knees." Nida began running towards people near Walgreens.
Gilley fired his MP5 at Nida from 25 feet away. He told investigators he could not remember if Nida turned to face him or Powell, or if he made any movements towards them.
"I'm thinking if he just robbed somebody at gunpoint...He's like a wild animal, fight or flight," Gilley told investigators. "What's he going to do to get away from us?"
Nida, wounded by gunfire, ran to Paramount Boulevard, where he was struck by a car and fell to the ground.
Reyes, the officer who first encountered Nida, ran to Nida and noticed blood on his chest. She radioed "shots fired" and requested paramedics. Nida flailed his arms "attempting to get up" as Reyes held him down and patted him for weapons.
An autopsy revealed that Nida suffered four gunshot wounds, including two that entered the left side of the back and a third that entered the left tricep. The fourth gunshot wound was likely caused by one of the three other gunshots. Marijuana was found in Nida's system.
"Gilley based his decision on what was known to him at the time and his fear Nida posed a threat to the public," the DA report states. "Given the rapidly evolving, dangerous situation that confronted Officer Gilley, we conclude that Officer Steven Gilley was justified in using deadly force to prevent Nida's escape.
"We are closing our file and will take no further action in this matter."