LANCASTER – Several wiped away tears as 10-year-old Stephany Cobian spoke of the deputy-involved shooting on Jan. 21 that claimed the life of her big brother Christian Cobian, 26.
“I don’t understand why the police had to shoot him just because he was riding a bike without a light,” Stephany Cobian said. “If I was riding my bike, would the police shoot me?”
Stephany Cobian was backed by a crowd of about 40, which included local civil rights leaders and family and friends of Darrell Logan Jr., Christian Cobian, and Donald Handy – the three men shot dead by Sheriff’s deputies within the past four months. The group stood together for a press conference Wednesday to demand accountability from the Sheriff’s Department and elected local leaders and to call for a civilian review board to oversee deputy-involved shooting investigations.
“In the last several months, three people have been killed by the local sheriffs utilizing methods which warrant questioning if not criticism…” said Miguel Coronado of The League of United Latin American Citizens of the Antelope Valley (LULAC). “A thorough and impartial investigation of every one of these incidents and of the internal policies and culture which may be contributing factors should be investigated…”
On October 13, 2011, Darrell Logan Jr., 32, was shot 11 times by deputies in his garage. View the Autopsy Report here. According to a Sheriff’s press report, released the day of the shooting, deputies responded to Logan’s home after receiving a call about gunfire coming from the residence. Deputies made verbal commands for Logan to exit the garage but he refused to do so, according to the Sheriff’s report. “When deputies entered the garage they were confronted by the armed suspect and a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” the Sheriff’s report states. Logan’s mother Arzenia Ratliff, continues to dispute the Sheriff’s account of the events, and says the man who was inside the garage with Logan at the time of the shooting tells a different story.
On Jan. 21, 2012, Christian Ivan Cobian, 26, was shot and killed in an alley by deputies. Cobian was pulled over by a two-deputy patrol car for riding a bicycle without a light near 10th Street West and Avenue J-4 in Lancaster, according to a Sheriff’s press report. Cobian ignored deputies’ commands to stop, dropped the bicycle and fled, according to a Sheriff’s press report. Deputies gave chase, and during the pursuit, Cobian reached toward his waistband, and that’s when the deputy-involved shooting occurred, according to the Sheriff’s press report. No weapon was recovered and Cobian was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s press report.
On Feb. 1, 2012, Donald Handy, 68, was shot dead by deputies who were serving a narcotics warrant at his home.
“Upon entering into the residence, a 68-year-old male white suspect [Handy] suddenly exited a bedroom armed with a four-foot sword and raised it toward a deputy that was nearby,” said Lieutenant Mary Leef of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. “A deputy-involved shooting occurred at that time and the suspect was shot multiple times and transported to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead.”
Leef said the sword was recovered from the scene.
At Wednesday’s press conference, family members and friends of all three men spoke emotionally about the incidents.
Donald Handy was suffering from prostate cancer, could hardly walk, and was getting around with the assistance of a cane, according to friend Emmett Murrell.
“Don didn’t have a sword in his hand and if he did he was in his house, not knowing who it was!” said Murrell.
Family members said Christian Cobian had just finished celebrating the baptism of his two younger siblings, Stephany and Anthony, when he left for the store and never returned.
“If the police thought he was armed they could have used different methods to stop him, things that they learned in training,” said Stephany Cobian. “They shot him not just in the legs but in the back, chest and the head.”
Flanked by Darrell Logan’s mother and father, friend Stan Muhammad called for the community to question whether there was gang violence within the Sheriff’s Department.
“We’re not saying the whole sheriff’s department is corrupt, but the one’s who are perpetrating the violence must be held accountable,” said Muhammad.
AV Human Relations Chairman Darren Parker said the community was struggling to understand the Sheriff’s Department’s use of force.
“We don’t understand as regular citizens why our community seems to be targeted,” said Parker. “It may not be the case but that is definitely the perception… help us to stop the misperception that we are being targeted just because of the way we look.”
The group demanded that elected officials immediately create a citizens review board or civilian oversight committee to investigate alleged police malpractice in the Antelope Valley.
The group also demanded that local elected officials refrain from making judgment on deputy-involved shootings before due process, and called on the local media to publish articles in an unbiased and objective manner. Read the full speech of main speaker, LULAC member Miguel Coronado here.