Jeweler’s family file $51 million wrongful death claim against police

A $51 million wrongful death claim filed against the Burbank Police Department alleges that a man was killed by officers in June 2004 because of his Middle Eastern appearance.

The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed June 24 on behalf of the family of Assaf Deri.

Deri, 25, was shot and killed by undercover officers June 25, 2004, after his vehicle was boxed in by police in an alley, the claim said.

The claim alleged that Deri, who was Jewish, was killed because of his appearance and because he was perceived to be Muslim.

According to publish reports, police officials previously have said that officers opened fire after Deri drove his car into a narcotics detective, who was treated and released from a hospital.

An internal investigation was conducted and Burbank police in March decided the shooting was within department policy, according to published reports. Deri was under surveillance as part of a narcotics investigation, police reportedly said.

The claim, however, said that Deri had no prior criminal record, was not engaging in illegal or suspicious behavior at the time of the incident and also wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The claim also alleged that police tried to justify the killing by conducting a “fruitless” search without probable cause for contraband at Deri’s home. In addition, the lawyers charge that Deri’s parents, father Pinchas and mother Yehudit who live in Israel, were told by police that they should not take any action until after an internal investigation and district attorney’s probe were completed in eight months to a year. Because of this advice, the attorneys claim, the family missed the standard six-month deadline to file a claim.

“It is an outrage that the police would kill Assaf Deri without cause or provocation,” said Browne Greene, one the Deri family attorneys. “And then barge into his home under false pretenses to look for non-existent evidence in the hopes of providing an excuse to cover up their crime of murder. That search was fruitless, but it did not stop the police from further lying to Assaf’s parents and advising them to take no action until the investigation was complete which would have ultimately precluded them from filing a government claim against the police.”

The claim was filed along with an application to extend the deadline by six months.

The Los Angeles Police Department also was named in the claim because its officers allegedly were at the scene.