“You fucking move, I’m going to kill you, bitch!”
The menacing order was made by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jose Ruiz as he and his partner, Deputy Albert Murad, struggled to pin down and allegedly disarm Noel Aguilar. Ruiz backed up the threat by putting his pistol to Aguilar’s head.
But the 23-year-old construction worker, who had a fiancée at home and a baby girl on the way, didn’t heed the words.
He resisted. And he paid for it with his life.
That’s clearly seen in a video shot by an anonymous witness that was released on Friday to accompany a federal civil lawsuit filed by Aguilar’s family attorney accusing both Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies of starting a “shooting spree” and using “excessive force” when they “physically abused, then shot and killed” Aguilar.
“It’s an execution is what it is,” attorney Humberto Guizar told The Daily Beast, citing the dozen gunshot wounds in Aguilar’s neck, back, chest, thigh, and left arm. “The deputy [Ruiz], he shoots [Aguilar] and then he intentionally gets on top of him and suffocates him to death while he’s shot, which is really cruel.”
The autopsy report classified Aguilar’s death as a homicide and summarized the cause as the result of “Multiple Gunshot Wounds.”
Aguilar was tooling around on his bicycle in Long Beach, California, on the morning of May 26, 2014, before he switched up his trajectory and began pedaling in the opposite direction of a pursuing sheriff’s department squad car.
Ditching his wheels and continuing on foot, Aguilar led the U-turning lawmen into a dead end along 69th Way and Long Beach Boulevard, behind the apartment complex where he lived.
A tenant on the second floor was awoken by the “bang” from a trash can that fell over in the chase, according to a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office internal investigation report completed in February. The tenant looked out of his window and began recording from the moment when Aguilar was in the process of wrestling with the arresting deputies.
After Deputy Ruiz announced that Aguilar should stay put, Ruiz “tapped the side of his gun on the back of Aguilar’s head before shouting ‘Stop!’” the report reads.
Ruiz managed to cuff Aguilar’s left hand but he put up such a struggle that he was able to pull his right arm free, despite the fact he was “much smaller than either of the deputies,” according to the civil lawsuit. The autopsy report states Aguilar was 5-foot-7 and weighed 164 pounds.
“At one point Dep. Ruiz’s partner Dep. Murad yells ‘Gun, gun!’” and, according to the Los Angeles DA’s document, claims Aguilar “was reaching for a weapon.”
Ruiz then trained his service weapon on Aguilar’s stomach and later told investigators that he “felt Aguilar grab his weapon.”
“Come on, man, why you pulling a gun on me?” he recounted to investigators of Aguilar’s response.
Ruiz “believing Aguilar was retrieving a weapon and would shoot Murad, fired his duty weapon once at Aguilar,” the DA’s office reported.
But Ruiz shot his partner by accident, not Aguilar.
“I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot!” Murad screamed over and over with a bullet in his gut. Murad later complained of losing “feeling in his legs and started to lose consciousness,” according to the DA’s report.
Guizar, the Aguilar family attorney, insists that the young man never had a piece.
“He never has a gun in his hand whatsoever,” he said. “He was just trying to get away.”
If he did have a gun in his hand, Guizar said, then Aguilar might have deserved to be shot—but only once.
“Assuming he might have been reaching for their gun like they claim, then the first shot would probably be reasonable. If that happened,” Guizar added.
But the other gunshots into his client were completely excessive, Guizar said.
The video shows Muard retrieving a silver handgun from near Aguilar and putting it behind him on the ground, well out of reach of Aguilar.
“Aguilar’s hands were in front of his body, you can see that,” he said, referring to the video evidence. “And then the deputy straight executes him, bam-bam-bam—three shots in the back—to the back of his body.”
With Aguilar’s hand believed to still be on Ruiz’s gun, Ruiz allegedly squeezed the trigger, according to the DA’s report. That shot, according to the autopsy report, struck Aguilar’s left leg.
According to Ruiz’s account to DA investigators, he cleared his weapon and chambered a round while his partner wasted no more time and “placed the gun near Aguilar’s ribs… [and] fired three times.”
Murad told investigators later that he suspected Aguilar had a “second gun” and, “believing that Aguilar was going to shoot him again,” shot Aguilar “three times in the back from close distance.”
And that’s when Aguilar’s body, riddled with three slugs, “went limp,” and yet, the report states, he still mustered enough stuff to have “struggled” some more. This time the deputies managed to get the right wrist cuffed and Ruiz proceeded to put his knee into the dying man’s back.
“These cops are pretty evil,” Guizar suggested. “After he’s on the ground and shot, and he’s saying, ‘I’m dying!’ the other deputy gets on top of him and rides him like a horse.”
“You can see him suck the life out of him.”
Murad, injured, loudly wailed on the tenant’s video to get backup to assist them after the shots rang out. He pleaded for an address from the onlookers inside their apartments, but nobody was willing to help at first.
“Fuck you, you shot him in the back!” one eyewitness screamed out.
Another yelled: “You don’t shoot him in the fucking back, you asshole! Fucking take it! You’ve got a fucking gun!”
Murad was later shown video footage recorded by the tenant and told investigators that he had “no memory of Ruiz firing a second time” and that he maintained “at the time of the incident, he believed Aguilar had shot him.”
The DA’s report later concluded that the lethal force the deputies used after tackling Aguilar was within the law.
“Aguilar refused to comply with the orders and struggled with the deputies as they attempted to arrest him,” the final report states.
Plus, there was a “loaded weapon” that the deputies had in fact taken from Aguilar, according to the DA’s rundown.
The DA’s report also claims there was a struggle between Aguilar and Ruiz over his service weapon, stating, “Aguilar grabbed the barrel of the firearm and fought for control of the gun.” This struggle is partially obstructed by the officer’s body in the video.
The DA’s office reports the three shots in Aguilar’s back were “reasonable.” Murad, “believing that Aguilar shot him and had, again gained control of a firearm, and in fear for his life, unholstered his service weapon and fired three shots at Aguilar.”
Both deputies, the report concludes, “Acted in lawful self-defense of others when they used deadly force against Aguilar.”
Legally speaking, the deputies need only have reasonably believed their lives were in danger when they used lethal force on Aguilar—never mind the fact they had disarmed him.
The first statement by the sheriff’s department was vague: An unnamed “male in his twenties,” fleeing from cops, got into two struggles. The statement said the assailant was trying to “take one of the deputy’s hand-gun away.” This forced the deputies to fire their duty weapons at the man, “who was also armed with his own handgun.”
In a response to the incident, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department sent out a press release Friday that said it takes all “Deputy Involved Shootings seriously,” that an internal probe was “conducted and completed,” and that it will be submitted to an oversight committee in January. The statement also confirmed that both Murad and Ruiz were “back at work in the field.”
No criminal charges appear to be on the horizon: The L.A. County Sheriff Department’s internal investigation sided with the deputies’ decision to use lethal force against Aguilar. Lawyers for Aguilar’s family now are hoping the feds can take a second look and determine if indeed Aguilar’s civil rights were violated.
Guizar also claims sheriff’s deputies intimidated eyewitnesses.
“We do know for a fact there were deputies threatening people that were witnesses,” he said.
In the video, responding officers arrive at the bloody back alley crime scene (where Aguilar remained handcuffed and motionless) pointing their pistols and shotguns all over the place before one deputy repeatedly runs up a stairwell and shouts at an onlooking neighbor, “Get back in your house!”
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California would not comment about the lawsuit or the newly released video footage when contacted by The Daily Beast.
Aguilar had multiple prior criminal offenses, according to L.A. Superior Court records, including auto theft and evading arrest. Most recently he had been hit with violating terms of a criminal street gang injunction, but his lawyer said he couldn’t confirm if the deceased dad had been a member of any particular gang.
Meanwhile, Aguilar’s fiancée has been grieving online and trying to teach her infant daughter about her dad. Facing reporters last week, she repeated her daughter’s father’s last words to her:
“‘Tell my baby I’ll always love her, just in case anything ever happens to me,’” she said.
In one Facebook post Maryy Herrera, who was five months pregnant with their daughter when Aguilar died, is hunkered down with her healthy, happy infant daughter next to Aguilar’s grave at Rose Hills Memorial Park, offering a heartfelt caption: “Hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is take my daughter to visit her daddy to this sad place.”
Aguilar’s mom, Elvia Marina Aguilar, has become vocal against overstepping cops.
“I want them to pay for taking my son’s life,” the woman, who is originally from Honduras, said publicly.
On her own Facebook page she has been posthumously writing to her son and hoping his death means something. The day after celebrating her first Christmas without her son, she described how hard it’s been for him to be gone.
“Sometimes I walk down the street hoping to find you in the corner waiting for me like before, but the reality sinks in and it hurts me so much. I just can’t and wont understand why they did this to you,” she wrote. “Even when I get answer I wont understand because everything that by far has been said you by the Sheriff’s has been a bunch a b.s.”