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Judge dismisses family's $120 million lawsuit in fatal LAPD shooting

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and deputy city attorney Denise Mills show TV news helicopter video from the April 11 police shooting of Abdul Arian at news conference announcing that the lawsuit was dismissed.
L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and deputy city attorney Denise Mills show TV news helicopter video from the April 11 police shooting of Abdul Arian at news conference announcing that the lawsuit was dismissed. Erika Aguilar/KPCC

A federal judge has shelved a $120 million wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for last year's fatal police shooting of an unarmed 19-year old man after a highway chase.

Eight LAPD officers fired 98 rounds at Abdul Arian moments after the high-speed pursuit ended in the San Fernando Valley. At least three officers emptied their 16-round magazines in their service weapons, according to the court ruling.

Arian did not have gun; instead, he held a black cell phone as he climbed out of his vehicle at about 10 p.m on April 11, 2012. TV news helicopter footage shows Arian hunched over and pointing his hands at officers three times as he exited his car on the U.S. 101 Highway and began running. 

Arian’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the police. They claimed Arian was taking photos of the police with his cell phone and the responding officers should have seen that.

In a written summary judgment issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in favor of the city, saying the parents’ lawsuit “failed to satisfy their burden of establishing a triable issue of material fact as to whether officers’ use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances.”

Attorneys for the city presented helicopter video footage of the shooting recorded by three different TV news channels. In a span of 19 seconds, Arian exited his vehicle, pointed his hands three times at the police, and fell on the ground after he was hit by 12 shots from the officers.

“No reasonable juror could find that Arian’s stance did not resemble that of an individual preparing to fire a gun,” wrote Judge Klausner.

During a Wednesday news conference, L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said the ruling was a multimillion-dollar savings for city taxpayers. But he also said the court's decision is not a cause for celebration.

“The officers are not home celebrating right now,” said deputy city attorney Denise Mills who handled the case. “They are vindicated, but they are certainly not happy.”

Attorney Jeffrey Galen said Arian's family will take time to consider whether to appeal. He also said he’s angry that the city attorney played a recording for reporters of the 911 call Arian made during the car chase.

In the call, Arian told the operator to tell police units to back off because he didn’t want to be caught. He also said his father would see the police chase on the 10 o’clock news. He said he didn’t want to stop for police because he didn’t want to go to jail and get raped. Arian also told the 911 operator that he had a gun, but that information was not relayed to the officers involved in the chase.

“All that the pursuing officers knew was that they were chasing a traffic violator,” Galen said.

“There was no sense of urgency here,” he said. “The police helicopter could have followed Abdul wherever he was going and this whole incident could have peaceful ending.”

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