In the early morning hours of December 28, 1998, Tyisha Miller’s vehicle sustained a flat tire. A passing stranger offered assistance and replaced the flat tire with a spare that also happened to be flat. The man led Miller and her friend to a nearby filling station, but the flat wouldn’t inflate. Crappy luck. So, the man offered to take Miller’s friend home so she could get help. Miller waited in the car.
Miller’s relatives arrived not long afterward, finding her comatose in the front seat of the car with engine running and the radio on. She was shaking, foaming at the mouth, and had a handgun in her lap. They called 9-1-1 for help and four Riverside Police officers arrived at the scene. The family informed the police she had a gun in her lap, so police approached the car with weapons drawn. After trying for several minutes to get a response from Miller, Riverside police decided to enter the vehicle by force. When they did, Miller bolted awake and allegedly went for her gun, prompting officers to fire 23 rounds into the vehicle. At least twelve hit Miller, including four in her head. The officers — three white and one Hispanic, all males — were placed on administrative leave. The officers claimed self-defense.
Following intense protests, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division opened an investigation into whether Miller’s civil rights had been violated in the shooting. The officers were fired shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, arbitrator Robert Steinberg of Culver City found the officers had been wrongly fired and awarded them back pay. The officers were not reinstated, however, with Steinberg citing “racial politics” as the reason. In December 2002, the Department of Justice closed the case, citing there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the officers.
December 28, 1998