Abdul Arian was shot and killed by LAPD officers after a freeway chase April 11, 2012. Today, his family announced they're suing the city for $120 million — that's $1 million for every shot they say police fired at the teen.
The family's attorney, Jeffrey Galen, said it was the worst case of excessive force he's seen in his 25-year career, and that more accountability is needed to keep police shootings from escalating.
"It would have been excessive to fire just one shot," Galen said. Meanwhile, he said police and the city have been uncooperative in giving the family information about the night of Arian's death. The lawsuit, he said, is to seek justice and to seek answers.
The incident made national headlines. After a chase, Arian, 19, stopped his car, blocking lanes on the 101. A police car then hit the car's drivers side door, and Arian ran out the other side of the car. Video from a news chopper shows Arian running back and forth across the freeway, sometimes taking an odd stance (which some have described as a "shooting stance"), before he's fatally shot.
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, has said Arian's actions made police believe their lives were at risk.
Galen said Arian was clearly taking photos with his camera and said that the nearest officer, who he said was maybe 6 feet away, would have been able to see that Arian was holding a cell phone. "With the headlights and the spotlights from the helicopter, it was like daylight," Galen said.
Arian was unarmed, but police have said he called 911 and told dispatch he was carrying a gun and was ready to engage with police. That recording hasn't been released, but police did release a partial transcript of the conversation. In it, Arian is quoted as telling the dispatcher, "I have a gun," and "If they pull their guns, I'm gonna have to pull my gun out on them."
Galen said the phone call lasted nine minutes and if released, could give insight into Arian's state of mind and why he failed to pull over for police cars. Galen said the family has tried to hear the tape on their own, without a public release, and has been repeatedly turned away. Galen said he called the City Attorney's Office to ask why they wouldn't let the family hear the tape or view photos on the cell phone, and was told, "if you want it, subpoena it." That's when the family decided to do just that and file suit, Galen said.
The City Attorney's Office was not immediately available for comment. LAPD spokespeople said they cannot comment on an open lawsuit.
The lawsuit names the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Charles Beck, and a number of anonymous police officers. The defendants are expected to be served with papers Monday and then will have 21 days to respond.
On Monday, standing on the steps of the Federal District Court in Downtown Los Angles, they questioned why officers couldn't have used less lethal force to subdue Arian. Galen also questioned why officers, if they were in fear for their lives, "charged" towards Arian instead of taking cover.
Galen said the shooting was also reckless, claiming shots hit nearby buildings, including a Porsche dealership. According to the Coroner's report, Arian was shot in the head, torso, left arm, right hand, right shoulder, right thigh, lower right leg, left wrist, and the leftside lower back. The Medical Examiner found no drugs or alcohol in his system and family said Arian had never suffered from depression.
Family members described Arian as a "good boy." His sister, Nelofar Arian, said her brother always came running when she needed help. She said more than anything, Arian, who drove a Crown Victoria, wanted to be a police officer. His favorite hobby, she said, was "driving his car." She said her mother is so distraught, she "can't talk."
Galen said if they win the suit, the family plans on donating a substantial amount of the money back to the LAPD to invest in officer use-of-force training.
Officer-involved shootings have risen dramatically in Los Angeles lately. In 2011, there were 54 fatal officer-involved shootings, up 70 percent from the prior year.
Around the country, the number of officers killed by suspects has also risen: 72 were killed last year, up 75 percent from 2008.