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Los Angeles Times

Lancaster couple awarded $4.1 million in sheriff's shooting

A federal judge has awarded $4.1 million to a couple shot 15 times by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies while the man and woman were homeless and living in a shack.

Angel and Jennifer Lynn Mendez were lying on a futon in a wooden shack in the backyard of a private Lancaster residence in October 2010, when two sheriff’s deputies, Christopher Conley and Jennifer (Pederson) Ballis, entered unannounced, according to court documents.

The deputies were searching for a parolee-at-large, whom they believed to be armed and dangerous, court documents state. The couple alleged in the lawsuit against the sheriff’s department that the deputies had no search warrant.

The deputies entered the 7-feet-by-7-feet shack without knocking and saw a BB gun Angel Mendez kept to shoot rats and other pests, according to the decision signed by U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.

When the deputies entered the shack, they saw the BB gun, and Conley yelled “Gun!” according to the judge’s decision. When they started firing, the deputies did not see Jennifer Mendez, who was five months pregnant.

Angel Mendez was shot 14 times, according to the couple’s lawsuit, and his right leg was amputated below the knee. Jennifer Mendez was shot once, according to the lawsuit.  

The deputies testified they did not think the shack was a habitable structure and the only person who would have been in it would have been the parolee trying to hide, according to court documents. The parolee was not found on the property.

The court awarded Angel Mendez $3.9 million based on his claim of excessive force by the deputies, documents state. The award was to cover past and future medical care, future surgeries and loss of earnings.

Jennifer Mendez was awarded more than $222,000.

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hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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