Attorney, Family Claims Manipulated Video Footage Reveals ‘Unjustified’ Shooting Death by Fresno Police; Victim’s Family Demands Release of Unedited Footage

Creator: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Picryl.com
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By Jonathan Nunez and Madison Whittemore

FRESNO, CA – Controversial body camera footage—the family said it was tampered with—was released last week to the friends and family of Maxmilliano Sosa, Jr., a Latino father of two young boys who was shot and killed by three Fresno police officers last Nov. 4.

The Fresno Police Department (FPD) has a history of utilizing excessive force to unjustifiably kill more than 80 percent of the Black and Latino population in North Fresno, according to a statement by family attorney Kevin G. Little, quoting an ACLU report, noting those groups only makeup 52 percent of the population. 

Both the family members of Max Sosa and the members of their community agree that FPD was “unjustified in their use of deadly force,” according to Little, who said “Max’s killing was the 6th officer involved police shooting in 2023 and the 41st person killed since 2013.”

“Fresno’s own police officers have filed lawsuits outlining FPD’s rampant racial discrimination and corruption. This lack of training and a culture of discrimination undoubtedly contributed to Max’s death. There is little accountability or oversight within the department and from city officials to address these systemic problems,” added Little.

On Nov. 4, 2023, the FPD, explained Little, responded to a call in the early morning from Sosa’s wife, who requested a welfare check on her husband (Max Sosa) who was allegedly intoxicated and making threats to end his own life.

However, what should have been a standard welfare check where officers assess a person’s wellbeing to make sure they are not a risk to themselves or anyone around them, turned into the three responding officers tasing Sosa after claiming that he was wielding kitchen shears in a threatening manner, Little wrote in his statement.

After being tased, Little noted, “Max’s head was down and he was not looking at the officers in a manner that would show he was ‘charging at them as the police claim.” Little said the report cites that Sosa’s head was down in a “non-threatening manner” as he assessed his arm from the injuries he sustained by the taser dart shot at him.

“Officers have every opportunity to deal with this as a mental health crisis and instead they responded with relatively untrained officers with guns,” Attorney Little stated, pointing to another unjust loss of a life due to the FPD using excessive force against minorities. 

In fact, when questioned by Sosa’s friends, family, and Fresno community about why a mental health clinician was not present at the scene before force was used against Sosa (especially since officers had over an hour to call a clinician to the scene), the FPD claimed, said Little, a mental health clinician was not available at the time of the incident.

“All we want is to know why FPD failed to bring in trained mental health professionals to prevent these unjustified killings,” Max’s sister, Selise Sosa explained, consequently demanding that the unedited version of the body camera footage from the FPD be released.

According to family members, releasing the video footage of Max and the police officers will undoubtedly shine a light on FPD’s association with mental health. 

When FPD released its video footage to Sosa’s family, the family’s reservations about FPD’s perspective of mental health were essentially confirmed, said Selise Sosa, who said, “Max could be your son, brother or uncle and we have to come together to make sure Fresno PD no longer kills members of our community and get away with it.”

Selise Sosa added, “In our worst moments of mental health crises we deserve to not automatically be killed. His two little boys spent their first holiday without Max and are now without their father for the rest of their lives.”

The family’s news release claimed all three officers were relatively inexperienced since “two of the officers that shot Max had only one year of experience and the third had about two and half years of experience and were not equipped to deal with this crisis.”

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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