A Los Angeles homeless couple who was shot 15 times by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies while they were living in a shack was awarded $4.1 million by a federal judge.
Angel and Jennifer Lynn Mendez were in a shack in the backyard of a private Lancaster residence when two sheriff’s deputies, Christopher Conley and Jennifer Pederson Ballis, entered the dwelling. The deputies were looking for a parolee-at-large.
When the deputies entered the shack, they saw a BB gun that Angel kept to shoot rats and other pests. Conley yelled “Gun!” and the deputies started firing. Apparently they did not notice that Jennifer was five months pregnant.
Angel was shot 14 times and Jennifer was shot once. The parolee was not found on the property, The Los Angeles Times reported. The deputies did not have a warrant.
Angel was awarded $3.9 million to cover past and future medical care, future surgeries and loss of earnings. Jennifer received about $222,000.
“This is a landmark constitutional case,” said the couple’s attorney, David Drexler. “The case has far reaching implications for impoverished individuals to be protected from unlawful searches and use of excessive force by law enforcement.”
He added: “The ramifications of this case go beyond the devastating shooting, the warrantless raids and the cover up which followed. The judge affirmed our argument that indigent people like the Mendez’s are worthy to receive the full protections of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution against unreasonable searches. A makeshift home is still a home.”