Mother of teen killed at park seeks $35 million from Los Angeles


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The mother of a youth volunteer who was fatally shot at Harvard Park in South Los Angeles has filed a claim for damages against the city totaling $35 million.

The claim cites the city’s failure to install security cameras and other safety measures in the park, which is a known gang hangout, as resulting in the death of the teen. Patrick Caruthers, 19, was sitting on a park bench last fall listening to music before the start of his volunteer shift when he was gunned down by an unknown assailant.


Police said the shooting was gang-related, but Caruthers, who had a learning disability, was an innocent bystander.

For months, Councilman Bernard C. Parks lobbied for security cameras to ward off crime and monitor illegal activity in the city-owned space. But the issue stalled in the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. The cameras were finally approved hours after Caruthers was fatally shot.

His mother, Gail Sears, said in the complaint that the city’s slow response to previous requests for surveillance cameras put her son and other park-goers in danger.

The city ‘negligently owned, operated, patrolled, controlled, managed and staffed the park in a manner which created a dangerous condition of public property,’ stated the claim, filed Thursday.

Sears is seeking $25 million in damages for emotional pain and suffering, an additional $10 million in compensation for the severe physical and emotional pain and suffering her son sustained before he died, and $12,000 for funeral expenses.

The city has 45 days to accept or reject the claim. If it rejects the claim, Sears will have the option to file a civil lawsuit.

‘The city really let me down, and cost my dear son his life,’ Sears said in an email statement.

Cameras were finally installed in January.


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Photo: People offer written notes, candles and flowers to memorialize Patrick Caruthers, who was fatally shot at Harvard Park in September. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times