Nov 23, 2020
Nicholas Burgos Jr. died on November 1, nearly four weeks after he was shot seven times by a sheriff’s deputy inside Harbor-UCLA hospital, which is part of the countywide public hospital system. At the time of the shooting, the 38-year-old Burgos was being treated in the hospital for mental illness.
The shooting outraged doctors and other hospital workers, who organized a rally on October 13 to protest police violence inside the hospital and also demanded that no guns be allowed inside the hospital, including those carried by police. In fact, this same hospital had gone through another police killing of a patient five years ago.
As usual, the Sheriff’s Department defended the shooting, saying that the deputy acted in self defense, because Burgos pursued her and attacked her with a heavy medical device made of metal. But hospital workers, who witnessed the incident, tell a different story. What Burgos had in his hand was an IV pole because he had an IV needle in his arm, they said, when he encountered the sheriff’s deputy in the hallway. As it got tense between Burgos and the deputy, doctors urged the deputy not to engage and not to shoot; they told her to let the hospital’s trained staff, which was on its way, handle the situation instead. But the deputy shot the patient anyway.
The sheriff’s department quickly moved to cover up the shooting. Even though Burgos was hospitalized in severely critical condition, it did not notify Burgos’s family for a full week after the incident. And L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva showed complete contempt for the victim by claiming that it was “a scene out of ‘The Shining’ with Jack Nicholson,” likening the victim, a mental patient, to a horror movie character.
The L.A. Sheriff’s Department, one of the largest police organizations in the country, has a lot of blood on its hands. The killing of Nick Burgos is the third murder of a working-class man at the hands of Villanueva’s deputies within four months.