VENTURA : Suit in Boy’s Death Advancing to Trial

Jury selection is expected to conclude today in a trial where the city of Ventura and 12 police officers are accused of negligence in the death of a 15-year-old LSD user.

The case comes to trial in Ventura County Superior Court more than six years after the parents of Gary Gurrola arrived at their Martin Court home and found their son standing in the front yard, admittedly high on LSD, according to the family’s lawsuit.

When the parents told him to come inside, Gary jumped through an already broken front window and cut his leg, the suit says. The boy’s mother, Nancy Gurrola, called the 911 emergency line while his father, Porfirio Gurrola Jr., tried to calm the boy, according to the suit.

Gary was taken to Ventura County Medical Center, where he was handcuffed and made to lie face down on a hospital gurney with a board placed on his back to hold him down, according to the suit. In addition, a towel or sheet was used to cover his head and a strap was placed around his neck, the suit says.


At the juvenile center, the officers tried to carry the gurney up a flight of stairs feet first, then discovered that the gurney would not fit through the upper door and had to carry it back down, the suit says. During this time, the boy was heard struggling to clear his throat but the officers did not make sure that he was able to breathe, the suit says.

Back at the foot of the stairs, an officer removed the sheet and was hog-tying the teen-ager’s legs and arms behind him when his father and sister, Karyn Gurrola, noticed that Gary was not breathing, the suit says.

But it was several minutes before anyone responded to their pleas to check the boy, according to the suit. He lapsed into a coma caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, the suit says, and life support systems were turned off a week later.

The suit, filed by Ventura attorney George C. Eskin, seeks $1 million for each of the three relatives from each of the defendants.


Joseph R. Henderson, the attorney representing the city and its officers, said the law permits officers to use whatever force is necessary to make a lawful arrest. In this case, he said, the boy was guilty of public intoxication and was a danger to himself and others.