One week before the fatal police shooting of Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles, a family claimed LAPD sergeants beat their loved one to death in the same area.
Omar Abrego, a 37-year-old father of three, was driving home on Aug. 2 when he was pulled over by officers right in front of his house in the 6900 block of South Main Street (map), according to family members.
The confrontation with police took place just four blocks from where Ford was shot and killed by Los Angeles Police Department officers nine days later.
Two sergeants from the Newton Division, which was also involved in the Ford shooting, pulled over Abrego because he was allegedly driving erratically, speeding and had almost hit a pedestrian, according to LAPD officials. When they attempted to pull him over, he kept going.
“After the vehicle stopped at 69th and Main, the suspect started to flee and the two supervisors caught the individual and an altercation ensued,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “As a result of that altercation … the suspect had a laceration and that’s one of the reasons they called the ambulance.”
But family members and witnesses claimed they saw officers beating Abrego.
“They were beating him real bad, and he died of the wounds,” said Yair Abrego, the victim’s brother.
A witness who did not want to be identified said he saw officers strike Abrego’s face while he was down. Cellphone video from the scene appeared to show Abrego bleeding when he was on the ground.
“I witnessed the officer, the sergeant for LAPD, strike the individual twice in the face with his fist. Then officers arrived on the scene,” the witness said. “I saw a lot of blood on the suspect’s face.”
Another witness, who also wished to remain anonymous, added that police appeared to punch the man for about 10 minutes. The witness also told KTLA that officers beat Abrego with a baton.
Abrego died about 12 hours after the incident occurred.
Family members said he was driving an Amtrak truck and in his work uniform at the time of the incident. An Amtrak spokeswoman said there was no record of him working for the rail service or one of its contractors.
Both sergeants were injured as a result of the arrest, according to Smith, who said that one fractured a hand while the other injured a knee.
The man’s sister said she was angry over what happened to her brother.
“It makes me feel angry because, police officers are supposed to try to protect us, not to harm or even kill,” Yanelly Abrego said.
Abrego’s death has not only left the entire family grieving, it has also left them “traumatized” and “scared,” according to Omar Abrego Jr. said.
“I’m just trying to stay strong for my little brother and sister,” he said.
Abrego’s funeral is expected to take place on Saturday.
LAPD detectives were conducting an investigation into the incident.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Abrego’s family said he was driving an Amtrak truck home from work, but that the rail service did not have a record of him working there.