The community has launched a full-court press into the tragic LAPD killing of an unarmed man who was helping his fiancée fill a pre-natal prescription at a drugstore the day after the couple learned she was pregnant.
At the culmination of an unbelievable chain of events, Dontaze Storey Jr., 29, was shot dead on the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and 3rd Street on November 11 in a fusillade of bullets fired by two Rampart police officers in full view of his terrified pregnant girlfriend and his adoring neighbors.
The officers, Oliver Malabuya and Daniel Bunch, thought Storey had a gun. After they shot him full of holes, they realized the only weapon he had was a cell phone.
Storey was well known and highly respected in his neighborhood. His senseless, unarmed killing by the LAPD has sparked outrage in the community and rekindled activism against police violence which has lain dormant since the cops killed 13-year-old Devin Brown for joyriding almost four years ago.
The police accountability group, organized in the wake of Brown’s killing, held the first of several planned townhall meetings about Storey’s death Tuesday night with LAPD’s 77th Street Division leaders. The meeting was preceded by a solemn candlelight vigil Monday evening on the spot where Storey was killed — a spot still covered in blood, a spot still dotted with Storey’s teeth which had been shot out of his mouth, a spot where the bullet-riddled tree beneath which he died gave startling testimony to the violence that occurred there.
Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, a Storey family friend, is leading the slain man’s neighbors, friends and relatives in getting to the bottom of how the highly respected, Bible-reading, devoutly Christian Storey came to die during the early evening hours of Veterans Day.
According to Jitahidi and the many witnesses to this killing, Storey’s fiancé, Estaze Yanke had just learned she was three months pregnant and had gone to the drugstore two blocks from the couple’s apartment to get her pre-natal prescription filled. A man in the drugstore began harassing her, so she called Storey on her cell and told him a man was making her feel uncomfortable as she waited for her medicine.
Storey, who had the reputation of coming to the aid of anyone and everyone in the neighborhood, walked to the drugstore to see about his lady and came upon the man who was bothering her. He had words with the man, and the man pushed Storey, and they began to tussle a bit. The drugstore manager told them to cut it out and to take their dispute outside. In the meantime, someone called the cops and reported there was a Black man in the store with a gun.
While all this was going on, Estaze left the store and headed home. En route, she saw a bunch of cops descending on the drugstore and a helicopter hovering overhead and, not knowing what was happening, she called Storey and told him to hurry home because something bad was happening and the area was swarming with cops. Storey turned in the direction of his Berendo Street apartment, saw Estaze waiting for him and began running toward her.
Witnesses said Storey was being trailed by a police car as he ran to catch up with Estaze and they said the cops — Malabuya and Bunch — came up on Storey from behind and exited their car shooting.
“All of the witnesses we talked to said the police never yelled ‘Stop!’ ‘Police!’ or anything. They just came out of the car shooting him from the rear,” Jitahidi said.
Storey was shot in the back of his leg, which spun him around, then he was shot in the chest and in the mouth. “Two of the witnesses say the police shot him in the mouth after he was on the ground,” Jitahidi said. Atun Re, Storey’s chiropractor uncle, said he saw four wounds on his body, including the one to his mouth that knocked out his teeth and exited through his cheek.
Needless to say, the police account of the killing differs from the witnesses in that the police claim they attempted to detain Storey, who ran from them and that they chased him on foot and that Storey “turned in their direction with an unknown object in his hand believed to be a handgun.” As we know, that unknown object was the cell phone on which he had been communicating with his fiancée down the street.
According to Sgt. Ruby Malachi of LAPD press relations, Malabuya, a cop for seven months, and Bunch, a five-year veteran of the force, were removed from duty for a week after the killing but have been returned to field with the approval of the department’s psychologist and Chief William Bratton.
Malachi said the killing is being scrutinized by the Force Investigation Division to determine whether the shooting was within policy. But it’s the definition of “policy” that rankles Storey’s family, friends and members of the accountability group who are demanding that law-enforcement agencies change their use of force policies so unarmed residents are not killed.
A list of six demands Jitahidi’s group has issued also includes increased community control over the policies and procedures of law enforcement agencies, the public airing of all officer disciplinary hearings, criminal prosecution of the officers who killed Storey and financial compensation for his family, including funeral costs.
“We need to stop the murder of residents by police,” Re said. “The only way we will do so is by organizing, changing laws and giving the community more control over law enforcement. It’s not about hating the police, it’s about ending the murder of unarmed people.”
Storey, of Jamaican heritage, was a massage therapist in the process of procuring his license and a great cook who actually studied culinary arts. “His name, Dontaze, means ‘Sir Give’ and he lived up to his name,” said his fiancée of two and half years. “He was a very giving person; giving of his goods, services and time to anyone who needed it. He was a very talented man who always took time out to help others. That’s why everybody liked him.”
Storey is the son of Yolanda Williams. He was born and raised in South L.A. and he attended Audubon Middle School — the same school Devin Brown was attending when the cops killed him.
From the Wave, 2008.
Rest in Peace: Dontaze Storey Jr. (August 18, 1979 – November 11, 2008)
UPDATE: A civil lawsuit finally proceded in January 2014 and a jury awarded $750,000 to Dontaze Storey’s son. No criminal charges have been filed and the two assailants are still working on the field.