A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was charged Wednesday in an on-duty unlawful fatal shooting of a man who was holding a knife last year outside his family's East Los Angeles home.
Deputy Remin Pineda, 38, was charged with one felony count each of assault with a semi-automatic firearm and assault under color of authority after David Ordaz was fatally shot in the March 2021, Jr., Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Thursday. An arraignment date has not been set.
Pineda is accused of continuing to shoot Ordaz even after he dropped his knife and fell to the ground with his back to Pineda and other deputies, the DA's office said in a news release.
It was not immediately clear how much jail time Pineda could face. A spokesperson for the DA’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry.
Pineda fired at least 12 rounds at Ordaz, according to a county coroner’s report provided to NBC News last year by the family’s legal representative, the law firm of Alan A. Ahdoot.
Deputies began shooting at Ordaz when he ran toward them with a knife, according to the DA's office. Officers originally fired beanbag rounds at him, according to the news release.
The deputies arrived after Ordaz's sister, Hilda Pedroza, called them and reported that her brother had a knife and was suicidal. His family witnessed the death, Gascón said.
"This tragic killing of Mr. Ordaz in the presence of his own family has caused tremendous harm that will reverberate for years to come," he said in a statement.
Ordaz, 34, was a father of three, according to NBC Los Angeles.
In July 2021, embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva said he had “grave concerns” about Ordaz's death after body camera video showed the shooting and Ordaz's family sued the county and four deputies.
Villaneuva also said Ordaz was “under the influence of drugs and wanted to commit ‘suicide by cop.’” The sheriff’s department said Ordaz had been convicted of drug possession and DUI.
Villaneuva said last year that the shooting was under internal investigation and that he would share results of the inquiry with the FBI.
The DA's office said that investigation continues, but a representative for the sheriff's department said in a statement that it submitted the investigation to the DA's Justice System Integrity Division for review.
Neither office immediately replied to questions about the apparent discrepancy.
Pineda was dismissed "and will continue to be relieved of his peace officer powers pending the outcome of the court proceedings," according to information from the sheriff's office.
The Ordaz family suit said he was “not in his right mind” when his sister called 911 to report that he had “a regular kitchen knife,” that he was on methamphetamine and that he was suicidal. The deputies “used unjustifiable force” to cause Ordaz’s death, the suit alleged, claiming wrongful death and violation of California civil rights, which protect people targeted for violence as a result of a “medical condition."
The status of that lawsuit was not immediately clear.
The deputies’ union, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The charges against Pineda follow years of troubling allegations against the sheriff's department and its deputies.
In August, another deputy, Sean Essex, 51, was indicted on charges of sexually assaulting four girls in a case that prosecutors had declined to pursue a decade ago.
Last year, a state civil rights investigation was opened into the sheriff’s department over allegations of excessive force. A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said last month that the investigation continues and that officials could not comment further as a result.
The department has also been criticized for “deputy gangs,” which a report released last year by Loyola Law School numbered at 18.
Department officials shot and killed Andres Guardado, 18, in June 2020. An independent autopsy his family released in July said he was shot five times in the back. Sheriff’s detectives placed a security hold on the county coroner’s conclusions, a move Sheriff Alex Villanueva defended as necessary to preserve the investigation’s integrity. But the coroner’s office launched a rare inquest that found Guardado’s death was a homicide, and the deputy who shot him declined to testify.
A few months after Guardado was killed, leaders of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee demanded the Justice Department investigate the sheriff’s department, alleging the deputy cliques “adhere to white supremacist ideologies, belong to ‘criminal gangs,’ and engage in an ‘aggressive style of policing’ motivated by racism.”