The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released body camera footage on Friday showing a deputy shooting and killing a woman who had called 911 over an alleged domestic violence situation with her boyfriend.
Niani Finlayson, 27, called deputies to her apartment in Lancaster on December 4 due to an alleged domestic violence incident. Finlayson had said on the call that her boyfriend was refusing to leave her home.
When three deputies arrived at the apartment, Finlayson opened the front door holding a large kitchen knife and said she was going to stab her boyfriend for allegedly hurting her 9-year-old daughter. Her daughter was standing next to her and appeared to tell deputies that the man had “punched” or “pushed” her.
Deputy Ty Shelton shot Finlayson four times within roughly three seconds of entering the apartment, body camera footage shows. Shelton had asked another deputy for her Taser right before entering the apartment and was holding the Taser in one hand and a handgun in the other when he shot Finlayson with the firearm. It did not appear that any of the three deputies at the scene used any other weapons or deescalation tactics before Shelton fired his gun.
Finlayson was shot and collapsed to the floor as her daughter stood nearby and observed. The child then ran into the kitchen.
The boyfriend screamed, “No, no, why did you shoot?”
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that Finalyson was provided first aid before being transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her boyfriend became “resistive” and was arrested for child abuse and assault on a police officer, but was later released pending further investigation, the sheriff’s department said.
Speaking to reporters, Finlayson’s father questioned law enforcement’s ability to protect citizens, especially in domestic violence cases, according to Fox 11. He asked why a Taser was not used instead of a firearm, pointing out that his daughter weighed about 110 pounds.
“You just pull out your gun like… like she’s a dog on the street?” he said.
Finlayson’s family has said her boyfriend had injured her and her daughter.
Shelton’s shooting of Finlayson was not his first fatal shooting, as he killed 61-year-old Michael Thomas on June 11, 2020, while responding to a call for alleged domestic violence.
Thomas’ killing was not captured on camera, but Thomas’ girlfriend later said she and Thomas were in an argument and that Thomas had attempted to prevent law enforcement from entering his home, according to the Guardian. His death happened weeks after George Floyd’s murder, and his family said he was afraid that police would kill him. Thomas was unarmed when Shelton shot and killed him.
The sheriff’s department said Shelton had been removed from the field as an investigation into Finlayson’s death continues, in accordance with standard policy.
“Every deputy-involved shooting is traumatic for all involved and each incident has its unique set of circumstances and complexities … the department will examine and evaluate every aspect of the shooting including the response, tactics, and background of the employee,” the sheriff’s department said in its statement.
Finlayson’s family filed a claim last week against the sheriff’s department and Los Angeles County. The family is demanding accountability for the deputy and seeks compensation to secure a better future for Finlayson’s daughter.