DOWNEY – More than 150 people on Saturday marched on City Hall to draw attention to Michael Nida, an unarmed man shot to death Oct. 22 by a Downey Police officer.
Marchers started at the site of the shooting at Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard, where they held a short rally. They then marched more than two miles to City Hall, squeezing cars onto one lane of Paramount and Firestone boulevardsand causing traffic to back up for blocks.
The march included chants and speeches, and it was attended by everyone from small children on scooters to elderly anti-war activists.
The march was organized by the Campaign to Stop Police Violence, which is a project of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition.
Organizer Doug Kauffman of ANSWER said police officers are rarely forced to explain in criminal court how and why they killed someone.
The District Attorney almost never files criminal charges against police officers or deputies, he said.
“They kill, then they hide behind a veil of secrecy,” he said.
He hoped the march would let people in Downey know that citizens were watching police.
He also said the march was to support the families of Steven Bours, who was killed by Downey Police in March as he walked on Paramount Boulevard with a hatchet or hatchet-like tool. That shooting took place within a few hundred feet of where Nida was killed.
Police Chief Rick Esteves issued his condolences within days of the shooting, and Mayor Roger Brossmer made a statement this month saying he and the City Council were concerned about the shooting. The letter laid out the City Council’s reasons for not addressing the shooting publicly up to that point.
On Saturday, Downey Police officers monitored the march, but they mostly stayed back and helped control traffic.
Nida’s friend Damion Ramirez said many people in Downey still don’t know much about what happened the night of the killing. He believes police in Downey aren’t held accountable by the public, he said.
“We want people to know about this,” he said. “The more people know about this issue, the more they’ll care.”
Nida, who was a 31-year-old married father of four from South Gate, was first approached by police responding to an ATM robbery at a nearby bank. He was crossing Imperial Highway after he bought some cigarettes when an officer stopped him, according to his family’s account.
Police said that on the night of the shooting they believed Nida was a suspect in the robbery, but they learned later that Nida certainly was not involved in the robbery. Instead, Nida was out on a date with his wife to celebrate his 32nd birthday, which was a few days later.
Police said Nida twice ran from police and was shot when he made an “aggressive” move toward officers. But Nida’s family members dispute that account, saying Nida was flat on the ground and was shot in the back as he stood up.
The facts of the shooting will likely come to light soon, because Nida’s family this week plan to file a lawsuit in court. The family’s attorney, Brian Claypool, is also representing another client, Miguel Macias, who Claypool says in July was threatened at gunpoint by the officer who killed Nida. He said the officer pulled a gun on Macias during a routine traffic stop.
He is trying to get videotapes from the public defender’s office at the Downey Court showing what happened with Macias’ case, he said.
“This is going to show that the Downey P.D. last July learned that this officer was trouble,” Claypool said.
Nida was raised since his infancy by Jean and Jerry Thaxton, who are relatives of his biological father. The Thaxton family and Nidas friends have attended nearly every single City Councl meeting since the shooting.
At the conclusion of the march, Jean Thaxton and Nida’s biological mother embraced in front of the crowd at City Hall, and Jean said the family would not stop pushing Downey to open up about what happened the night of the shooting.
“Michael did not commit a crime that night,” she said. “The only thing he did that night is he ran.”
She said she was tired of reading and hearing about the “aggressive” move police say her son made before he was shot by an MP5 machine gun.
The account “is a bunch of bullcrap,” she said.
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