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County approves $1.5-million settlement in deputy-involved shooting

LA County to pay $1.5 million settlement to family of man killed by sheriff's deputies in 2012

Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday approved a $1.5-million settlement with the family of a man who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in Watts.

The deputy, who later faced criminal charges in connection with a separate incident, fatally shot 22-year-old Arturo Cabrales in March of 2012.

According to a written account by county officials, gang enforcement deputies stopped Cabrales and two friends on suspicion of drinking in public. They described Cabrales as "immediately uncooperative and hostile." Deputies said Cabrales tried to deny them access to his home by closing the gate and when a deputy pursued him, Cabrales drew a gun.

The lawsuit filed against the county by Cabrales' family alleged that Deputy Anthony Paez shot Cabrales in the back without a warning. They said Cabrales was unarmed and that he was not given proper medical attention at the scene. They also argued that the deputies violated Cabrales' civil rights by trying to enter his home without a warrant or probable cause.

The District Attorney's office found the deputy had acted in self-defense, and an internal review of the case by the Sheriff's Department found that the shooting was "reasonable and justified," but county officials said "appropriate administrative action" was imposed on a member of the sheriff's department. 

Paez, the deputy who shot Cabrales, was charged last April with felony conspiracy to obstruct justice and altering evidence as a peace officer in a separate incident in which he and another deputy allegedly planted guns inside a medical marijuana dispensary to justify two arrests. He no longer works for the department.

County supervisors also approved two smaller settlements in other cases involving the Sheriff's Department on Tuesday -- one alleging that negligence by jail staff led to an inmate's suicide and the other alleging excessive force during a woman's arrest.

They agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of Steve Ulysses Cabrera, who was found hanging in his cell in Men's Central Jail in October 2010. 

According to the complaint, Cabrera had attempted suicide in jail at least once before, but was placed in an isolated unit and not given mental health treatment.

The incident is still under review by the Sheriff's Department. The county has been under pressure from federal authorities to do a better job of preventing jail suicides and to improve conditions for mentally ill inmates.

The supervisors also authorized a $250,000 settlement in a case alleging that deputies in Lancaster used excessive force while arresting a woman whose grandson had reported that she was threatening to shoot him in April of 2012.

According to a report on overall county litigation costs, the amount the county spent last year as a result of lawsuits involving the Sheriff's Department was down from the year before. The Sheriff's Department still makes up the largest portion of county litigation costs -- accounting for $40.7 million out of the county's total $95.6 million in lawsuit costs last year.

The next largest chunk of lawsuit costs came from cases involving the Department of Health Services, which accounted for $20.8 million.

Overall lawsuit-related costs were up by 7.5% from 2013 to 2014, although county officials noted that the 2014 total was still lower than the average over the previous five years. 

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

 

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