A jury in a civil case Tuesday awarded $2.2 million to the family of a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Los Angeles police officer — a shooting that Chief Charlie Beck had deemed justified and Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute.
The panel deliberated six hours before deciding that the city should pay damages from the May 2013 shooting of Christian Eaddy, an African American man who had suffered a brain injury as a child.
"A jury will hold the Los Angeles Police Department accountable if supervisors and administrators choose to bless these bad shootings," said John C. Taylor, one of the attorneys representing the family.
Officers were dispatched to Eaddy's Pacoima home on the afternoon of May 16, 2013. His cousin called 911 reporting that Eaddy was stabbing himself with syringes and was carrying two kitchen knives. The cousin told a dispatcher that Eaddy said he was trying to commit suicide, according to a summary of the incident detailed in a memo by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Eaddy was known to become aggressive with police, and four other family members were outside on the driveway watching him, the cousin told the dispatcher.
When officers arrived, they saw Eaddy with the knives walking in circles, scraping the blades together as the family members stood by.
Police issued several orders for Eaddy to get on the ground, but he advanced toward the officers while holding two large knives, prosecutors said.
A witness recalled that Eaddy, striking the blades together, told the officers, "I'm not going to hurt nobody."
Officer Fernando Avila fired his Taser stun gun at the young man, and nearly simultaneously, Officer Christopher Carr fired a single fatal round from about 9 feet away, according to a summary of the incident released by the LAPD in 2014.
Eaddy was shot by police within 40 seconds after the officers arrived, according to attorneys for the family. He died at the hospital.
Taylor said jurors could identify what a reasonable officer would do by comparing the actions of the two officers: one "chose to use less-lethal force, not deadly force."
Attorneys for the city had argued that Carr was acting in self-defense and and within the bounds of the department's policies.
Edwin Rathbun, an attorney for the city, told the jury of eight men and four women that Carr was justified in using deadly force because Eaddy charged at the officers.
The police chief and Los Angeles police commission both ruled in 2014 that the shooting was justified and within policy. In a Sept. 23, 2014, memo, the district attorney's office concluded that Carr had reasonable fear of death or significant injury, and he "acted lawfully in self-defense and defense of others."
Taylor said Eaddy could still be alive if the officers showed better judgment. He faulted the officers' tactical decisions and questioned why they did not wait for several backup units that were en route to the scene.
The lawyer also disputed the narrative offered by police and said Eaddy had placed the two knives in a shopping cart in the driveway of his home before he was shot. The knives were recovered from the shopping cart, he said.
The department had insisted Eaddy was still holding the kitchen knives when the deadly round was fired.
"This is a trial about accountability," Taylor said. "The LAPD has trouble accepting accountability when they do things wrong."
Adding to the argument about the knives, attorneys for Eaddy's family contended that the bullet struck Eaddy in a way that showed he turned toward the shopping cart. Thus, he was complying with the police commands, the lawyers said.
The verdict was met with relief by Eaddy's family, lawyers said, although the man's mother, Iola Propps, died last year.
"Unfortunately, his mother never got to see this day," Taylor said.
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