Francisco Garcia: Killed by LASD Deputy Luke Liu in 2016
September 6, 2021 ~ By Shari Rose
Updated February 10, 2022
Liu stopped Garcia at a gas station, accused him of stealing a car, then shot the unarmed motorist four times
On February 24, 2016, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Luke Liu approached Francisco Garcia at a Norwalk gas station. Liu says he was investigating a potentially stolen car. He told investigators that he asked Garcia if he owned the vehicle. Liu said that Garcia, who was sitting behind the wheel, responded, “It’s none of your business.”
Garcia, 26, began driving away from Liu at about 5 mph. Despite zero evidence suggesting that Garcia was armed, Liu said he was afraid Garcia had a gun in the backseat and was reaching for it as he drove away.
Liu then ran up alongside the driver’s side of Garcia’s car and fired seven times, hitting Garcia four times. A total of 20 seconds passed between Liu approaching Garcia, and him firing. Garcia was pronounced dead at the hospital. He was 26 years old.
Liu Charged With Manslaughter in 2018
Shockingly, Luke Liu was charged with voluntary manslaughter in December 2018. The last time a Los Angeles law enforcement official was charged with killing a person was 2000. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 1,500 police shootings have occurred without charges.
Liu paid a more than $1 million bond, and remained free until his arraignment on June 14, 2019. Francisco Garcia’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County, and was eventually rewarded $1.75 million.
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In an Associated Press story from December 2018, the sheriff’s union, Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, ardently defended Liu and blamed Garcia for his own death. Despite any evidence, the union proclaimed that Garcia was on meth and sped away from Liu. Security footage from the gas station that captured parts of the shooting shows that Garcia was driving away from Liu at 5 miles per hour, but that’s classic police union behavior.
In 2015, the year before he killed Garcia, deputy Luke Liu received $182,493 in compensation from the county. Three years after he shot Garcia, Liu still recieved $45,000 in 2019. He was already charged with manslaughter, and somehow received thousands of dollars in compensation from Los Angeles County.
Luke Liu Found Not Guilty By Jury
On November 19, 2021, Luke Liu was found not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Francisco Garcia. It didn’t matter that Garcia was unarmed. Nor did it matter that the emergency room doctor who treated him testified he suffered “no significant injuries” and there was no physical evidence that Garcia hit him with the car.
Liu’s attorney called only one witness, an expert on the use-of-force who worked prior for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Liu did not testify.
It took 20 years for a police officer in Los Angeles to be criminally charged for killing another person. And as difficult as it is to get a charge, it’s even more challenging to have a jury find an on-duty officer guilty of just about anything.
As frustrating as it can be, the work toward accountability and justice in police violence is a marathon, not a sprint. But perhaps the tide is turning in small ways. At the end of 2021, a different Los Angeles officer was charged in the shooting death of a young woman. Eddie F. Gonzalez, a Long Beach school safety officer who killed an 18-year-old after shooting her in the head on school grounds, has been charged with murder.
Perhaps the family of Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez will see justice in the violent death of their loved one, but the odds are certainly stacked against them.
This story about Francisco Garcia is part of a larger project that looks at recent police shootings of Latinos in Los Angeles.