Family of man killed by deputy fights for release of body camera footage

ALPINE, Calif. – The family of a man shot and killed by San Diego sheriff’s deputies Monday afternoon is seeking legal help to get body worn camera video released.

“We haven’t heard anything. They haven't called us, informed me or the family,” said Monica Zoniga.

Zoniga’s son Stephen was visiting when his father Danny Ayala was shot. Investigators said deputies were called to Summit at Alpine apartment complex when neighbors called 9-1-1. Reports were Ayala was making death threats.

When deputies arrived they found Ayala outside the apartment with a knife. They say he charged deputies, resulting in multiple shots fired. Paramedics tried to save Ayala, but he died.

Zoniga said since the shooting, the family has heard nothing from the Sheriff’s Department.

“We just want to know what happened. There are just so many questions,” said Zoniga.

FOX 5 also contacted the sheriff’s department only to be told the investigation is still ongoing and there are no further details at this time.

“Show some humanity and let them know what you know,” said attorney Chris Morris.

Morris was retained by Ayala's family Tuesday to help seek out answers in the case. As the head of the criminal division under former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, Morris has worked on countless shooting cases involving law enforcement.

He said from what he’s seen so far, deputies did not have to open fire.

“One of the things that first calls out to you is what was the potential for a less lethal option,” said Morris. “They’re supposed to have a gun and either a gun and pepper spray, a gun and pepper balls or a gun and Tasers. The question that the family has is why weren’t those used?”

Another question Morris asks is after the shooting, why did investigators hold Ayala’s 4-year-old son for hours, never even notifying the family.

"They were questioning the baby, asking him what happened," said Morris. "It sort of looks like signs of maybe they’re not completely confident that this was a justified shooting the way they’re handling it."

He said the truth of what happened lies in the body-worn camera video.

“The evidence will show whether this will be a justified shooting or not justified shooting, but right now the least you can do is show some humanity,” said Morris. “We’re hoping that this case will prove to be a turning point in how the county and the district attorney handles these types of incidents."

Stephen Ayala was with his father when the shooting happened. Monica worries about what her son saw, but most difficult is explaining what happened to his father.

“He keeps asking, 'where’s my daddy, where’s my daddy?'" said Monica. “He thinks he’s somewhere else and we know he’s in heaven right now.”

The sheriff’s department confirms there is body worn camera video, but releasing it is up to the discretion of District Attorney Summer Stephan.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to assist the family with funeral expenses.