The family of a teenager fatally shot by a deputy in South Los Angeles in February announced a lawsuit on Wednesday against the county and the officers involved in the shooting.
Anthony Weber, 16, was killed during an encounter with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department in the Westmont neighborhood the evening of Feb. 4.
The circumstances surrounding the incident remained under investigation. While the agency alleged that the teenager's gun had possibly been removed from the scene, his family has maintained that the boy was unarmed.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Gregory Yates, an attorney for Weber's family, said the goal of the lawsuit was to "uncover and expose the code of silence in this case and reveal the true facts of what happened."
The Sheriff's Department has put autopsy results on hold and blocked the coroner's office from disclosing information, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Following the announcement, the agency said in a statement:
It is frustrating for our Department to see that there is a growing body of evidence in this case that is undeniable, and yet, to protect the integrity of the investigation, to continue to maintain open channels of communication for more potential witnesses to come forward, we must stay silent.
The shooting took place when officers responded to the 1200 block of West 107th Street, where a 911 caller said a young man was pointing a gun at the caller's car.
The agency said at around 8 p.m., two deputies approached an individual who matched the caller's description and noticed a "handgun tucked into the waistband of his pants."
According to the Sheriff's Department, that person, later identified as Weber, ran into the courtyard of an apartment complex.
The teenager was "reaching down toward his waistband, where the gun was located that they first saw," Capt. Christopher Bergner said at a news conference on Feb. 5.
One of the officers opened fire and struck Weber several times in the upper body, Bergner said. The deputies called for backup as 30 to 40 people entered the courtyard, the officer said.
"While waiting for additional deputies and trying to control the situation, it is believed that someone may have been able to gain possession of the gun and take it," the Sheriff's Department said in statement.
A person who said she witnessed the incident told KTLA a different account.
Ashley Briggs said she was at the building on West 107th Street when deputies served a search warrant at the apartment and soon opened fire.
"I saw the police shoot at him, for no reason," Briggs told KTLA."I just stepped to the side and they started shooting at him...They just said they had a search warrant to go in and check out the place."
Community activists have since staged protests to pressure the Sheriff's Department to release more information about the shooting.
The teenager's father, John Weber, confronted sheriff's officials at a Feb. 7 town hall meeting at a church in Westmont.
"Where's the gun? Where's the gun?" Weber asked deputies as attendees chanted in support. "I know where the bullets are — they're right in my baby's back."
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday calls the officers' use of deadly force "excessive and unreasonable," saying the teenager's hands were "visibly empty when he was fatally shot, including shots to the back and shots from behind."
The dispute lists the 16-year-old's infant daughter, his father and his mother, Demetra Johnson, as plaintiffs.
"This has been a devastating loss to my family," Johnson said at Wednesday's news conference. "We’re not complete any longer. This lawsuit is about justice for Anthony, my granddaughter, and our family."