Manuel Diaz: OC District Attorney's Report Is 'Biased and Inaccurate,' Say Lawyers for Dead Man's Family

Courtesy of the Diaz family
Manuel Diaz
The family of Manuel Diaz, 25, has scheduled a protest in the aftermath of a controversial announcement by the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) yesterday. Anaheim police officer Nick Bennallack was found to have acted in a "reasonable and justified" manner when he fired two bullets, ending Diaz's life on the lawn of an Anna Drive apartment complex. 

The conclusion was announced during a media-only roundtable and hour-long Power Point presentation by Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner yesterday afternoon. 

So far, all is quiet but far from content in Anaheim. Genevieve Huizar, Diaz's mother, is planning an immediate protest for this morning in Santa Ana at 9 a.m. outside the Orange County Superior Courthouse on Civic Center Drive.

For their part, lawyers representing the family have been ultra-critical of the investigative letter released by the OCDA. "We feel that the report shows just how biased they are to the point that, in this case, they are almost acting as an advocate of the shooter, while painting the victim in the worst possible light," says attorney Diana López, whose firm--Douglas, Lopez & Rumm LLP--has been retained in a $50 million wrongful-death lawsuit.

The investigative letter is the lengthiest of all previously released findings concerning an officer-involved shooting by a member of the Anaheim police department. It notes the primary witnesses to the incident as Bennallack; his patrol partner, Brett Heitmann; and three "Jane Doe" residents.

On the afternoon of July 21, 2012, the two Anaheim cops and a civilian on a ride-along rolled up on an Anna Drive alley in a gang-suppression police car. Diaz was said to have been hanging out, leaning into the front passenger window of another vehicle when Bennallack and Hietmann stopped and approached the men. It was at that point that Diaz fled, leading to a short pursuit. In a statement, Bennallack told DA investigators that as the young Mexican man turned the corner from the alley into an apartment complex, he kept looking back at the officer.

"At that point, it appeared as if he had removed the object that I believed to be a firearm from his waistband," Bennallack said. "As he began to turn, in fear for my life, I drew and fired my weapon two times. I did this to save my life, as well as my partner's life." In a critical moment, the Anaheim officer claims, he saw Diaz throw an object into the air.

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