In a ruling that pleased neither plaintiff nor defendant, a Torrance Superior Court jury has awarded $35,000 in damages to Armando Estrada of Los Angeles for injuries he suffered in a 1983 shooting by a sheriff's deputy near Inglewood.
The jury found at the end of a 9-day trial that the county and Sheriff's Deputy Richard Garcia were negligent in the shooting of Estrada, now 25. But the jury also found Estrada negligent and said he should share the blame for the shooting, which left him with severe head and neck injuries.
Estrada, who has bullet fragments lodged in his neck, had testified that he still suffers from neck pains, headaches and sinus problems.
Estrada could not be reached for comment. But Winston K. McKesson, Estrada's lawyer, said that the jury award was too little and that jurors may have been influenced by a doctor for the plaintiff, who testified that a sinus operation costing just $13,000 would solve Estrada's medical problems. McKesson and his co-counsel, Eric G. Ferrer, had asked the jury to award Estrada $350,000.
Relieved It's Over
Garcia said he is relieved that the case is over, but that he still feels he acted correctly in the incident. "I felt the shooting occurred solely because of Mr. Estrada's actions," he said.
Garcia said it was difficult for jurors to assess the action he himself took because he was not permitted to testify about a previous encounter with Estrada. The deputy had arrested Estrada several weeks before on a drug charge, and the two had scuffled. Estrada eventually pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and spent 16 days in County Jail, said Deputy County Counsel J. Patrick Joyce.
The jury announced its verdict after Estrada and Garcia offered strikingly different accounts of their confrontation on May 17, 1983.
Garcia testified he was patrolling with his partner in a neighborhood near Vermont Avenue and 111th Street that he called rife with gang activity, when the Sheriff's Department broadcast a report that shots had been fired.
About 1 a.m., the two officers stopped a car whose four occupants they suspected might have been responsible for the gunshots. One of them was Estrada. The deputy said that as Estrada lunged at him in an apparent attempt to take his .357-magnum revolver, it went off.
Estrada denied in court that he lunged at the deputy, saying he was complying with all of Garcia's orders when the deputy shot him.
The jury found that Estrada suffered $70,000 in damages, but that he should get only half that amount because he was 50% responsible for the shooting.