Yes, it’s against the law to ride a bike under the influence.
And yes, bike riders are legally required to have both a headlight, and at the very least, a rear reflector.
But the first is just a misdemeanor with a maximum $250 fine. And the second is usually just a fix-it ticket, often dismissed if the rider can prove he or she has put lights on the bike in question.
Neither usually punishable by the death penalty.
Yet that’s what happened over the weekend as a 50-year old bike rider was shot and killed in South L.A.
The L.A. Sheriff’s Department reports that the man, identified by KACB-7 as Terry Laffitte, was riding without lights and appeared to be drunk when he was spotted by Sheriff’s deputies at 9:12 pm Saturday on Miramonte Blvd in unincorporated L.A. County.
When the deputies tried to stop him, he continued riding to his home in the 6100 block of Miramonte. The officers followed him to the back of his home, where he reportedly punched one of them in the face, leading to a scuffle that eventually included members of his family who tried to pull the officers off Laffitte.
During the fight, he allegedly pulled out a gun, leading both deputies to fire a single shot each; Laffitte died at the scene.
The L.A. Times reports that two guns were found on the man, one of which was a replica.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, both Laffitte and members of his family who lived at the house are known gang members.
However, according to the report from KABC-7, family members say the shooting was unjustified.
“My brother was on the ground. They had his hands behind his back,” said Laffitte’s sister, Sandra Cotton. “He didn’t have a gun. Why would you shoot him if he was already on the ground and you guys had possession of him?”
Laffitte’s sister said the altercation was recorded on a cellphone, but she claims the device was confiscated by the sheriff’s department. Detectives said no cellphones were confiscated.
Family members said Laffitte had turned his life around and did not carry guns.
Of course, claims like that are easy to make.
But sometimes, they turn out to be true. Kern County Sheriff’s deputies are accused of illegally confiscating cell phones from people who witnessed a fatal police beating in the Bakersfield area — and allegedly deleting a video of the incident.
So let’s be clear about one thing.
You have a 1st Amendment right to record anything that occurs in public, whether or not it involves the police. And without a subpoena, they have no more right to take your phone or camera, or confiscate any photos or video on it, than anyone else on the street.
Less in fact, since police are required to protect the rights of the public and adhere to legal standards that the general public isn’t.
And while it happens far less often than some would suggest, it is also not unheard of for officers to plant a gun following an illegal shooting. I once knew a cop in another city who made a point of carrying a cheap handgun to drop at the scene in case he ever shot an unarmed person — and according to him, had used it in at least one case.
Of course, there’s nothing to suggest that’s what happened here, other than the statements of family members whose credibility has already been challenged by the gang accusations.
But even gang members have rights. And clearly, the LASD has some questions to answer.
Like how a simple misdemeanor traffic stop was allowed to escalate into fatal altercation.
And it’s not the first time it’s happened.