Slain Man’s Kin Offered ‘7-Figure’ Settlement
The state has offered a cash settlement of at least $1 million to the family of an off-duty Rapid Transit District bus driver shot to death by a California Highway Patrol officer during a traffic stop in 1986, sources said.
Attorneys for the state and the family of Yusuf Bilal, 38, met throughout the day Tuesday in an attempt to reach agreement on the proposed settlement.
Investigators said Bruce M. Moats, a motorcycle officer, stopped Bilal’s car on South Broadway for allegedly running a red light on March 18, 1986. They said Moats jabbed Bilal with a baton when Bilal was slow to get out of the car as ordered.
Threat of Attack
Moats, 38, said he fired his gun after Bilal wrested away the baton and threatened to attack him. The officer said he acted in self-defense, fearing for his life.
Bilal’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking damages “in the millions.” While the terms of the proposal that would settle the lawsuit were not disclosed, sources close to the case said the state offered at least “seven figures.” The settlement offer was made Friday. Trial of the lawsuit had been scheduled to start Tuesday.
“It’s unjust the way Yusuf was murdered,” Robert Johnson, 39, Bilal’s brother, told reporters Tuesday outside the downtown court office where attorneys for the family and the state were meeting.
“My brother was just trying to defend himself,” Johnson said.
Johnson was joined in the Courthouse hallway by Bilal’s wife, Naseem, daughter, Nazihah, 2, and sons Abdullah, 6, and Adur Raham, 3. Citing insufficient evidence to prove that a crime occurred, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute Moats for the shooting.
A 20-page report by Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard B. Healey concluded in August, 1986, that when Moats shot Bilal, he did so in the belief that he was in serious danger.
However, despite the decision not to file a complaint, Healey said he and other investigators were “not happy” with the tactics Moats used when he stopped Bilal’s car about 2 p.m. March 18, 1986.
The district attorney’s report said that after ordering Bilal several times to step out of the car, Moats pulled out his baton, opened the front door on the driver’s side and jabbed Bilal to reinforce his orders.
“Exactly what happened next is the subject of much dispute,” the report said.
According to the report, nine witnesses heard shouts of anger and saw the ensuing struggle, but “the stories told . . . are often at odds with each other on points of critical importance.”
After sorting through these contradictions, the investigators finally concluded that “Moats and Bilal struggled for possession of the baton . . . Moats lost the baton . . . (and Moats) fired three shots at Bilal, hitting him in the back.”
Los Angeles police officers arriving moments after the shooting said they found Bilal sprawled on his back outside the car with his right leg extending through the open driver’s door. They said they found the baton on the floor in front of the driver’s seat.
The report said the jabbing with the baton “might have been ‘unreasonable’ in the sense that it was demeaning and inflammatory and much likelier to excite further resistance than it was to extinguish resistance.”