The case of Michael Nida of South Gate will be heard in a Los Angeles federal courtroom May 7.
Nida, a father of four, was unarmed in October when he was shot in the back by a Downey Police officer armed with an MP-5 submachine gun.
On the night of the shooting, police were responding to a report of an armed ATM robbery near Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard. Police spotted Nida crossing Imperial, and they stopped him and had him sit on a curb, according to family members. Nida got up and left, jumped a nearby fence by the drugstore on the southeast corner, and called his wife, who was waiting at the nearby ARCO station, according to accounts from those familiar with the investigation.
Police eventually caught up with Nida between the shops and a concrete wall in the back of the shopping center. Police said Nida refused to obey several commands before he made an “aggressive” move and was shot three times, including two shots that hit him in the back of the shoulder.
Police later learned Nida was not involved in the shooting and was out on date with his wife. Nida had marijuana in his system, and his family members said he had a joint on him at the time of the chase. Jean Thaxton, who raised Nida since infancy and considered him to be her son, said she doubts the police account of the shooting. She wondered how police ever thought her Nida was a threat.
The night of the shooting, the Downey Police Department immediately turned the investigation over to the sheriff’s department, which completed its review of the case and gave its findings to the District Attorney’s Office.
Nida’s family members said the D.A. has sent the case back to detectives for more investigation.
While D.A. reviews of police shootings usually are published within 6 months, Nida’s family members said they were didn’t want detectives or D.A. investigators to hurry.
“We want them to get it right,” said Terri Teramura, Nida’s sister.
The family in November submitted a $15.1 million claim against the city, which was rejected by the city. The rejection was followed in February by wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court.
City officials have generally declined to comment on the specifics of the shooting, saying they wanted to protect the integrity of the outside investigation.
A few days after the shooting, Downey Police Chief Rick Esteves offered his condolences to Nida’s family. And Mayor Roger Brossmer in January issued a statement about his feelings on the case and why the City Council has said little about the shooting.
The city has hired the law firm of Manning & Kass, Ellrod Ramirez Trester of Los Angeles to handle the Nida case.
Meanwhile, Nida’s family recently added attorney Dale Galipo to assist attorney Brian Claypool on the federal lawsuit. Galipo has handled several high-profile police-shooting cases in other communities.
Galipo said the officer who killed Nida, Steve Gilley, should at least be tried for manslaughter. Galipo said Gilley could have acted with imperfect self-defense, a legal phrase meaning Gilley could have honestly believed Nida was a threat to his life but that such a belief was unreasonable based on the circumstances.
He also called for an outside investigation of the shooting, either from the county’s Office of Independent review or from the federal government.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “The D.A.’s office works with these same detectives every day. It’s hardly an independent, unbiased investigation.”
Galipo said he and Claypool want to quickly get the case to trial, saying the facts of that night speak for themselves.