A judge has tossed out a $120 million lawsuit against the LAPD, ruling that the department cannot be held liable for last year’s fatal shooting of 19-year-old Abdul Arian.
Arian was killed in April 2012 after leading officers on a high-speed pursuit into the San Fernando Valley. Eight members of the LAPD fired between 50 and 120 rounds at Arian once they had him cornered. The teen was unarmed, which prompted his family to sue the department for excessive and brutal use of force.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner tossed out the suit on Tuesday.
The pursuit began when LAPD officers attempted to pull Arian over after he had run a red light at an LA intersection. Arian did not stop; instead, he began a high-speed chase which ended in the San Fernando Valley when he attempted to flee his vehicle while pointing his cell phone at officers -- leading most of them to believe it was a gun.
By the time Arian had fallen to the ground, at least three officers emptied their 16-round magazines at the suspect.
According to authorities, Arian told a 911 dispatcher he had a gun and was intending to use it.
"I have a gun," Arian said over the phone. "I've been arrested before for possession of destructive devices; I'm not afraid of the cops."
However, the Arian family attorney Jeff Galen said that the officers were not told by the dispatchers that he had a gun, and that they should have been able to distinguish between a cell phone and a firearm. On top of that, Galen noted that there should not have been such a sense of urgency — the helicopter could have followed Arian in order to help bring the incident to a peaceful end.
Judge Klausner disagreed with Galen and the Arian family in his decision. According to his five page order, obtained by the Courthouse News Service:
The record contains video footage from three different news sources, all of which capture Arian's position and stance with respect to officers and others. The video footage shows that Arian turned towards officers on three separate occasions and extended his arms outward towards them. ... In each instance, Arian held a small, dark object in his hands and pointed it in the direction of officers. ... Based on this footage, the court determines that no reasonable juror could find that Arian's stance did not resemble that of an individual preparing to fire a gun.
Here, the undisputed evidence shows that Arian, in the process of fleeing from officers, took a shooting stance and pointed his cell phone at officers three times in a span of only 19 seconds. Even if the court assumed that warnings were practicable under these circumstances, the additional undisputed facts going to the reasonableness of officers' actions weigh substantially in favor of officers, such that the extent to which officers issued warnings is immaterial.