Jan. 1 event set for Desmond Phillips, AB392 Chico PD victim’s life, new state law to be celebrated

by Dave Waddell

A celebration to both remember the life of Desmond Phillips and to ring in a new state law governing police killings will be held on the first day of 2020.

Desmond Phillips

The Jan. 1 potluck will include music and speakers and be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Faith Lutheran Church of Chico, 667 E. First Ave. The public is encouraged to participate by the sponsoring Justice for Desmond Phillips group, said David Phillips, Desmond’s father.

Desmond Phillips, a 25-year-old black and Miwok Native man in mental crisis, was shot 11 times in his own living room by Chico police officers Alex Fliehr and Jeremy Gagnebin on March 17, 2017, just seconds after they entered the residence. Phillips was born on the first day of 1992, and, had he lived, would be turning 28 on Jan. 1.

The group also will be celebrating the Jan. 1 advent of Assembly Bill 392, which changes the standard for when police can legally use deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary.” AB392 prohibits law enforcement officers from shooting fleeing felons who pose no immediate danger. It also allows prosecutors for the first time to consider the actions of both the victim and the police leading up to a deadly encounter to determine if officers acted properly.

Critics of AB392 say it was watered down too much before passage, while supporters argue it is a necessary first step to police reform in California.

Desmond Phillips’ family has sued the city of Chico over Desmond’s killing. However, David Phillips said he recently ended their relationship with the John L. Burris law firm of Oakland over a disagreement on whether additional Chico officers should be sued in the killing.

“It’s not about money; it’s about accountability,” David Phillips said.

photo by Dave Waddell

David Phillips shows a photo of Colin Kaepernick wearing a T-shirt that includes son Desmond Phillips in a list of black citizens who have been killed by law enforcement agencies.

Phillips says he has until Dec. 30 to decide whether to obtain a new attorney or move forward pro per, meaning without legal representation.

Phillips said he has recently received many materials on the killing from the Burris firm, including videos and photos taken by authorities immediately after the shooting.

“The darkness is coming to light,” said Phillips, who promised that “a little taste of the video” will be shown at the Jan. 1 event.

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