L.A. to pay more than $8 million to settle lawsuits over deadly shootings by LAPD

Families devastated by the death of a loved one. Frayed public trust. Frustrated protesters camped outside City Hall.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles was reminded of another consequence of shootings by police officers: the financial fallout. 

In a unanimous vote, the City Council agreed to pay more than $8 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the fatal LAPD shootings of three unarmed men. The settlements are among the highest paid by the city for  deadly police shootings in the last decade.

Two of the shootings thrust the LAPD into a firestorm of criticism: the spring 2015 killing of Brendon Glenn in Venice and the 2011 shooting of Reginald Doucet Jr., a former college football player.

Glenn’s family agreed to settle their case for $4 million; Doucet’s, for $1.65 million.

The third shooting, which left 35-year-old Sergio Navas dead after a car chase that ended in Burbank, drew less public attention but raised questions among some within the LAPD.

His family will receive $2.5 million from the city.

After Tuesday’s vote, Councilman Paul Koretz called the spate of payouts from shootings by officers “very distressing.”

“It seemed for years that we had a better relationship with the community. We weren’t having fights over whether shootings were in policy or out of policy,” he said in an interview. “It seems like we’re going in the wrong direction, and it appears that police departments across the country are having the same problem.”

Much of the national criticism of police, stirred by a list of controversial shootings, has centered on how officers interact with African Americans. Two of the men killed in the shootings that were settled Tuesday — Glenn and Doucet — were black, as are the officers who shot them.

In recent months, the civilian board overseeing the LAPD has directed the department to find ways to reduce the number of police shootings by revamping department rules, revising training and emphasizing the use of less-lethal devices.

The LAPD declined to comment on the settlements Tuesday.

On a series of 12-1 votes, the City Council took the first step toward paying the settlements by issuing judgment obligation bonds, a form of tax-exempt borrowing that must be repaid over 10 years. Councilman Mitchell Englander cast the lone vote against that strategy, calling the bonds “one of the worst forms of debt.”

“It is akin to paying for your utilities with a credit card in order to keep cash in your savings account,” Englander said. “If we cannot pay for our operational costs, then we should be cutting our spending where necessary.”

If the council ultimately decides to issue the bonds, it will have to cast another vote next year.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the high-level budget adviser, said the city has previously relied on such borrowing to resolve especially expensive legal cases, such as ones filed in 2007 over allegations of police misconduct at an immigration rally in MacArthur Park. Using the bonds could prevent the city from raiding its reserve fund, which is needed in case of an economic downturn, Santana said.

The high payout for Glenn’s family comes after LAPD Chief Charlie Beck recommended that the district attorney file criminal charges against the officer — the first time as chief that he has recommended such charges in a deadly on-duty shooting. The Police Commission sided with the chief earlier this year, finding the officer violated LAPD rules for using deadly force.

The $4-million settlement approved Tuesday will be split between Glenn’s mother and 4-year-old son, their attorney said.

“There’s just no way to undo this wrong,” said the lawyer, V. James DeSimone. “You can’t bring someone’s life back.”

The district attorney’s office is still weighing whether to charge the officer who shot Glenn. 

Glenn was fatally shot May 5, 2015, during a struggle with police near the Venice boardwalk. Officer Clifford Proctor told investigators that he opened fire because he saw the 29-year-old’s hand on his partner’s holster and thought he was trying to grab the officer’s gun, according to an LAPD report made public earlier this year.

But video from a nearby bar and statements from Proctor’s partner disputed that account, according to the report. The video has not been made public.

A memo to City Council members about the case offered new details. According to the memo, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times, the video showed Glenn reaching back — not for the officer’s gun. The holstered weapon was on the opposite side of the officer’s body that Glenn appeared to be reaching toward, the memo said.

In the second case, Navas was shot and killed at the end of a car chase in March 2015. Police tried to stop Navas after they spotted him speeding in a Mercury Sable in Toluca Lake, but investigators said he took off toward Burbank.

Six minutes later, Navas came to an abrupt halt on National Avenue, a dead-end street. The police SUV stopped alongside the Sable.

Officer Brian Van Gorden told investigators he was sitting in the passenger seat when Navas got out, slammed the Sable’s door and turned to face him, according to an LAPD report released earlier this year. Fearing Navas was trying to ambush him, Van Gorden said, he opened fire.

The Police Commission agreed with Beck’s conclusion that an officer with similar training and experience “would not reasonably believe Navas’ actions presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.” The district attorney’s office is still reviewing the case.

The settlement approved Tuesday will go to Navas’ parents and children, attorney Luis Carrillo said.

”It’s some measure of justice,” he said. “Hopefully this will lead to improved training of LAPD officers so that these tragedies will not continue to be repeated.”

The third shooting settled by the city Tuesday happened in January 2011, when officers went to Playa Vista to investigate reports of a disturbance and possible theft after a cab driver called police to complain that a customer had walked away without paying his fare. Officers found the customer — Doucet, a 25-year-old athletic trainer and model who had played defensive back at El Camino College and Middle Tennessee State University — on a sidewalk, naked.

Doucet initially cooperated with police and put his hands behind his head as if surrendering, according to a report Beck submitted to the Police Commission. When Officer Aaron Goff tried to handcuff him, however, Doucet balled his hands into fists and broke free from police, the report said.

Two officers chased him to the front door of his apartment building, where Goff told investigators he tried to grab Doucet from behind. Doucet turned and punched the officer, later grabbing the handle of his gun and trying to yank it out of the holster, according to Beck’s report.

Police say Doucet continued to punch both officers. As they continued to struggle with Doucet, Goff drew his gun and fired.

The shooting sparked an outcry from Doucet’s friends and family, who questioned how an unarmed man could have overwhelmed two officers and why police didn’t try to use a Taser to subdue him.

Police commissioners determined Goff was justified in using deadly force. The district attorney’s office declined to charge the officer, saying he acted lawfully to defend himself and his partner.

Lawsuits related to the shooting have wound their way through court in recent years. This fall, a jury sided with Doucet’s family, according to one of their attorneys. The settlement was reached before the panel could weigh potential damages.

A memo to council members cited the jury’s initial finding, saying the case was settled out of concern that a “large damage award was forthcoming.”

The settlement will go to Doucet’s daughter, who is now 8 years old, said her attorney, Brian Dunn. He said the money will give her some financial security and a good education — “things that any father would want for his child.”

“It’s really not a sense of victory, because you can’t ever feel like you won something when someone died,” Dunn said. “You can’t bring that person back. But there is a sense of peace.”

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

kate.mather@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Follow us on Twitter: @katemather and @DavidZahniser

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UPDATES:

7:05 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Santana and Englander and additional details about the shootings.

2:25 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from the attorneys representing the relatives of Brendon Glenn, Sergio Navas and Reginald Doucet Jr. in their lawsuits.

This story was originally published at 11:35 a.m.

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