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Family of woman killed by deputy after calling for help seeks $30 million in claim against LA county, sheriff’s department


By Cheri Mossburg, CNN

(CNN) — The family of a woman who was shot and killed by a responding deputy after calling for help in a domestic violence incident is seeking $30 million in a claim filed Thursday against Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Niani Finlayson died on December 4 after being shot by one of a responding group of deputies, who claim she was armed with a kitchen knife. 

“When responding deputies arrived on scene, they witnessed a domestic disturbance between a male and female,” the sheriff’s department said the day after the incident. “The female made verbal threats indicating she was going to harm the male with the knife. When the female approached the male with the knife, a deputy involved shooting occurred.”

A subsequent sheriff’s department news release said only one deputy was involved in the actual shooting of Finlayson.

The family is accusing the deputies of wrongful death, assault, battery and civil rights violations. In California, a written claim seeking damages must be filed before suing a public entity.

The claim filed on behalf of the family said Finlayson had “called for help because her former boyfriend was strangling her” and had hurt her young daughter. Finlayson “was sitting on the ground, not threatening anyone when deputies opened fire on her from behind a glass door shooting her in the back four times,” the claim stated.

Finlayson’s 9-year-old daughter witnessed the incident that ended with the death of her mother, according to the claim.

The claim also alleges the deputy who shot Finlayson was Ty Shelton. CNN has reached out to Shelton’s representatives for comment.

The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to questions about Shelton’s history with the department and told CNN in a statement, “The Department has not officially received this claim but takes all deputy-involved shootings seriously.

“With any deputy-involved shooting there is a robust review process, which includes the Office of Inspector General, where every aspect of the shooting is thoroughly examined and evaluated to see if Department policies and procedures were followed.

“Additionally, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Justice System Integrity Division, conducts a legal analysis to determine whether any criminal charges will be filed and if the shooting was legally justified.”

Shelton was named in a department review of a fatal shooting in 2020, when he shot and killed a man by the name of Michael Thomas while responding to a domestic disturbance. The LA County District Attorney later determined there was insufficient evidence to prove he acted unlawfully in that incident.

Finlayson’s father, Lamont Finlayson, said Thursday, “I’m seeking justice, I want this cop Ty Shelton to be held accountable for the death of my daughter, I want the sheriff’s department of LA County held accountable.”

The sheriff’s department plans to release the body-worn camera footage of the incident by next week, according to its statement.

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