Jury rejects lawsuit in 2011 fatal shooting by Huntington police

A federal jury has rejected a lawsuit filed by the mother of a 20-year-old man who was fatally shot by Huntington Beach police during a 2011 traffic stop.

Erick Catalan of Long Beach was shot five times in the back and face after police pulled over him and John Torres, 26, of Fullerton on Catalan's 20th birthday Nov. 1, 2011, according to court documents.

Catalan's mother, Maria Isabel Garcia, filed the civil lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach in 2012.

"I celebrate my son's birthday now as the same day he died," Garcia said Friday.

The U.S. District Court jury Thursday rejected all three claims against Officer Kenton Ferrin and Sgt. Tom Weizoerick, including wrongful death and violations of Catalan's civil rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments, said Garcia's lawyer, Robert English.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office had cleared both officers of criminal wrongdoing in 2012.

Garcia said she is disappointed with the jury's decision. She didn't pursue the lawsuit for money, she said, but hoped the legal system would provide justice and the closure she needed to move forward.

"I feel like they didn't see what I'm going through," she said. "Nobody says anything except that they're sorry for my loss. That's all I get. There's no justice for my son."

Huntington Beach City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the verdict was an outstanding result for the city and establishes appropriate conduct for the Police Department.

"We know the officers acted appropriately in the situation, but it's great to have it confirmed by 12 impartial people," she said.

Police stopped Catalan and Torres in a car just outside the city limits after receiving a tip that Torres, a known gang member on parole, had a gun, court records state.

Weizoerick didn't fire at Catalan but shot and killed Torres, who was sitting in the back seat, after he ignored officers' orders to put his hands up and a gunshot went off inside the car, according to court records.

After Torres was shot, Catalan reached toward his friend from the front seat of the 1991 Lexus. Police testified that he was reaching for a .40-caliber handgun, court records show.

Ferrin, who is now a lieutenant, opened fire on Catalan after he ignored orders to put his hands up, court records state. A gun was found between the two front seats when police searched the car, records show.

"We argued, and we still believe, that he [Catalan] was an innocent man killed in the crossfire," English said Friday.

Garcia said she struggles with explaining the situation to her 4- and 12-year-old daughters, who often ask why their brother was killed, she said.

"I wasn't thinking it was going to end like this," Garcia said of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney's Office is continuing to investigate two officer-involved shootings in Newport Beach.

Last month, at least two officers shot and wounded Scott Jay Abraham, 43, after responding to reports of a man firing a gun outside his home on the beach.

In May, police shot and killed Gerrit Vos, 22, at a 7-Eleven. Police said he had charged at them with a sharp metal object.

The D.A.'s Office has not yet released its findings in either case.

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