A California civil rights attorney says he will file suit over the shooting death last month of a 39-year-old man described by police as “member of a known white supremacist gang.”
John Del Real Jr. was fatally shot shortly after 5 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Long Beach, Calif., by a “plainclothes officer conducting a narcotics investigation in response to several complaints from the community about drug activity in their neighborhood,” the Long Beach Police Department said in a prepared statement.
Attorney Brian Claypool now alleges the shooting was not justified and is calling for a criminal investigation.
“We plan to file a wrongful death, civil rights lawsuit in the near future,” Claypool told Hatewatch today in an e-mail.
The attorney, who recently won an unrelated multimillion-dollar wrongful death judgment against the Long Beach Police Department, told the Long Beach Gazette that the fatal shooting of Del Real was a “cold-blooded execution of an innocent, young Hispanic man.” One of Del Real’s two children witnessed the shooting, he said.
“We confirmed both through the medical examiner and through a photograph of the back of Del Real’s head that he was in fact shot in the back of the head,” Claypool told the newspaper. He also claimed that “after the officer shot Del Real, he shot him twice more when he was convulsing on the ground,” the paper reported.
In its prepared statement, the department said the shooting occurred after the officer noticed an individual “he believed was involved in drug activity” who refused several verbal commands and “approached the officer in a threatening manner.”
Del Real was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police said they discovered a 31-inch aluminum baseball bat in the suspect’s waistband. It was the third shooting involving an officer in Long Beach that week, according to various media reports.
“It was determined that Del Real was an admitted member of a known white supremacist gang, a fact supported by the multiple swastika tattoos appearing on his body,” the police department said in a follow-up statement. Nancy Pratt, a spokeswoman for the department, declined to tell Hatewatch which specific racist organizations had been identified.
Public records show Del Real had an extensive criminal record in both California and Oregon. He has faced charges of domestic violence, theft, narcotics, exhibiting a deadly weapon and parole violation.
Claypool said that the undercover officer provoked a confrontation and failed to identify himself, the Long Beach newspaper reported.
That drew an immediate, sharp response from the Long Beach Police Department, which called Claypool’s public statements “inflammatory, completely inconsistent with the evidence, and grossly inaccurate.”