Riverside County to pay $500,000 to family of man fatally shot while handcuffed

Riverside County agreed to pay $500,000 to the family of an 18-year-old man fatally shot in the back by a Moreno Valley deputy while handcuffed face-down on the ground, his family's attorney said.

The agreement was reached in June to award Jewell Allen, the mother of Lamon Khiry Haslip, after she filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the county and the deputy.

Allen’s attorney, Brian Dunn, said the shooting represents “an abuse of power.”

“It’s one of the worst I’ve seen,” he said Wednesday.

The Dec. 28, 2012, shooting occurred after Haslip was approached by deputies responding to a report of several men brandishing a weapon and creating a disturbance, according to court documents and a statement issued at the time by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s officials said the first deputy to arrive at Fir Avenue was told the men fled in a vehicle. Haslip was inside a vehicle, which the caller identified as one involved in the earlier report, sheriff’s officials said.

The officer stopped the vehicle, and Haslip allegedly tried to run away, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The officer approached Haslip and placed him in handcuffs face-down on the ground, sheriff’s officials said.

Haslip had a gun in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt, his mother’s attorney said. According to sheriff’s officials, deputies said Haslip rolled to his side and an “officer backed away from the subject and announced that the subject had a gun.”

Then Deputy Gary Dean Colbert fired a deadly shot into Haslip’s back, Dunn said.

Dunn said deputies reported that Haslip was trying to reach into the front pocket of his hoodie. But Dunn contends that would have been difficult because he was handcuffed and facing the ground. Haslip was not holding a gun when he was shot, Dunn said.

“The fact that he had a gun doesn’t change anything at all,” Dunn said. “We think the shooting was completely unjustified.”

Immediately after the shooting, Colbert was placed on administrative leave, which is the Sheriff's Department policy.

In January 2014, the Riverside County district attorney found “there was no criminal culpability on the part of the officer involved,” according to spokesman John Hall.

The county denied the wrongful-death allegations, saying Colbert acted in “self-defense and in defense of others,” according to U.S. District Court documents.

Assistant Sheriff Lee Wagner said Colbert no longer was employed with the county as of May 14, 2015. It is unclear whether he retired or was fired.

"The circumstances of his separation are confidential," Wagner said.

The family moved to settle their lawsuit because they did not want to go through a trial, Dunn said. Haslip’s mother lives in New York and his father is incarcerated.

“It’s been difficult for family members,” he said.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


2:18 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Assistant Sheriff Lee Wagner.

This article was originally published at 12:42 p.m.