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Two undercover police officers shot and killed an Israeli Jew in 2004 after they mistook him for a Middle Easterner or Muslim, then tried to cover up the wrongful death by raiding the man's apartment in hopes of finding evidence of contraband or illegal activities, the man's parents alleged in a lawsuit.
The complaint filed in federal court Wednesday named the Los Angeles and Burbank police departments and officers Scott Meadows and Jose Duran as defendants. An attorney for Assaf Deri's family said he did not know which departments the officers worked for, suggesting the suit may be amended as he learns more details of the June 25, 2004, shooting.
"The basic fact is, the police targeted this young man simply because he looked Middle Eastern," attorney Browne Greene said.
The suit alleged wrongful death, negligence, civil rights violations, assault and battery and false arrest. It seeks punitive damages.
According to the complaint, Deri was in his vehicle in North Hollywood when he was cornered in an alley by the officers who were not in uniforms and were riding in an unmarked car. Deri's parents believe the officers "failed to identify who they were, and without provocation, fired multiple rounds" at him, the lawsuit said.
Deri, who was unarmed, was not breaking any law and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol that night, Greene said.
The lawsuit also alleged that the next day police raided Deri's west Los Angeles apartment hoping to find evidence of illegal activities to justify the shooting. While there, they handcuffed Deri's father, Pinchas, who was visiting from Israel, "without probable cause or reasonable suspicion," the suit said.
Greene said Deri's parents returned to Israel after their son's death and were told police officials would investigate the shooting. He said they eventually learned the county District Attorney's office cleared Meadows and Duran of any wrongdoing.
"We beg to differ with this decision and look at its 'investigation' as one of professional courtesy - simply one hand washing the other," Greene said. "Our goal is to take this case to trial so that the real truth about what happened to Assaf and Pinchas is told and that justice is served."
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