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Family of college student killed by Long Beach police move toward lawsuit

Family of college student killed by Long Beach police move toward lawsuit
Amr and Amal Morad, cousin Kareem Morad and sister Ghada Morad. (Christina House / For The Times)

His 16-year-old sister, Ghada, sees him in a stranger's eyeglass case. His mother thinks of him when she's upset and he's not there to console her, and his father says he no longer has a philosophical sparring partner.

Nearly two months after an unarmed Feras Morad, 20, was fatally shot by a Long Beach police officer, Morad's relatives say they're still seeking answers to what happened that May night: Why did the officer not wait for backup before confronting the college student? Why has no one been charged with a crime?

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On Wednesday, the Morads are expected to take the first step toward a lawsuit by filing a tort claim against Officer Matthew Hernandez, who shot Morad, the Long Beach Police Department and the city.

The family is seeking $28 million and a change in police policies that the family's attorney claims permitted the deadly May 27 confrontation.

"I'm still proud of him to this day. He's in my heart forever and I wish I could see him for a second one last time to tell him I love him," Morad's mother, Amal Alkabra, said as she sobbed in an interview with The Times.

Police say Hernandez fired after Morad fought with him.

The officer was called to the 4600 block of East 15th Street about 7:30 p.m. on a report of a person leaping or stumbling from a second-story window. The caller said the person needed medical attention, was acting erratically and was possibly violent but unarmed, according to a 911 recording released by Long Beach police.

Kareem Morad, a cousin of Feras Morad, told The Times days after the shooting that Morad had made a "silly mistake of experimenting with [hallucinogenic] mushrooms and, unfortunately, he had a bad reaction to it. He needed help, and he didn't get the help he needed."

When the officer arrived, he confronted Morad without backup. The officer told Morad he was there to help, according to a department's statement. But Morad "advanced" on the officer, who fired a Taser twice, officials said.

A "physical struggle" ensued and the officer struck Morad with his flashlight, said David Hendricks, deputy chief of the department's investigative bureau. During the struggle, the two men momentarily separated, Hendricks said, though he wouldn't say how far apart they were. Then Morad allegedly advanced again and the officer shot him, police said.

"You watch this in the news. This stuff happens to other people; it doesn't happen to us, and when it happened to me, I'm still in disbelief," said Morad's father, Amr Morad, 60. "We see it in the movies. Not to my son."

After graduating from high school, Morad went to Moorpark College. He planned to transfer to Cal State Long Beach in the fall and wanted to go to law school, family members said. He finished second in a national debate championship a week before he was killed, they said.

In June, hundreds of Morad's high school and college classmates and friends from ROTC held a vigil in his memory in Woodland Hills, followed by a march in downtown Long Beach the next day.

Activists with the Black Lives Matters movement joined in the demonstration and said Morad's death was another example of police unnecessarily resorting to deadly force with an unarmed person.

Hernandez was temporarily put on administrative leave after the shooting and has returned to duty.

Morad's family wants him criminally charged and the department's policies changed.

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"It is completely outside policy to be taking steps [the officer] was taking without backup," said Dan Stormer, the family's attorney. "Thirty seconds to wait for backup. All he had to do was wait."

Police said there was no patrol car dashboard camera or body camera video of the confrontation. In their claim, Morad's family says he was shot five times and that witnesses said he wasn't violent.

He was likely suffering from head trauma from the fall from the window and couldn't understand the orders the officer was giving him, according to the claim.

Stormer acknowledged that Morad probably had a drug in his system, but said there was no way to say how he ingested it. The county coroner said that a toxicology report for Morad was months away from being finished.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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