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County Pays Family Injured by Deputies in Cerritos Melee

TIMES STAFF WRITER

We know who Arthur Dole hopes won’t be dropping by when he hosts a big party celebrating the $25-million payment his family shared Tuesday: Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

The last time deputies attended a Dole family get-together they came waving batons and handcuffs and arrested 34 party-goers, prompting a lawsuit that resulted in the largest civil rights damage award against police in California history.

The Dole family was in a celebratory mood as the county quietly settled the court judgment, with payouts ranging from $57,000 to $5.8 million.

“We’re going to put on a big luau--one with a big Samoan pig,” said Dole, a 70-year-old retired electrician. “We’re just glad this is finally over.”

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Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear broke up a bridal shower at Dole’s Cerritos home in 1989. Eleven deputies and about 35 Samoan American party-goers were injured in the resulting melee.

Criminal charges were dropped against most of those arrested, and the others were acquitted after jury trials.

But the party-goers sued the Sheriff’s Department, alleging that they were brutalized or falsely arrested. A jury awarded them a record $15.9-million judgment in 1995. With accrued interest, attorneys’ fees and other costs, the award had grown to nearly $25 million Tuesday.

“It was a nightmare. Our family was brutally beaten up. There was no reason for it,” said Emily Dole, tears in her eyes. She received cuts and bruises in the bridal shower altercation and received an award of some $1.2 million.

The former professional wrestler, who weighed 350 pounds at the time of the incident and competed under the name “Mt. Fiji,” said deputies bragged during the raid about driving “the Samoans” out of the neighborhood where they had lived for 11 years.

Sheriff’s deputies had contended that they were merely responding to complaints of a noisy party when they were set upon by rock- and bottle-throwing party-goers.

After the arrests, then-Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner characterized those charged with felonies as “very large people” with a “mob” mentality.

However, neighbors denied that rock-throwing occurred, and a videotape taken by one nearby resident showed deputies repeatedly hitting some of the party-goers as they lay handcuffed on the ground.

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The most seriously injured of the party-goers was David Dole, who received head injuries, a broken hand and damage to an elbow. His award was the largest at $5.8-million. “It feels weird. It’s a bittersweet victory. These deputies falsified everything and are still out on the street,” said Dole, 38, an advertising company supervisor.

The family’s lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, voiced anger that none of the deputies were disciplined for their actions.

“How many companies do you know of that would allow [$25] million in costs and not take action?” he asked. “It would be nice to see the Sheriff’s Department apologize.”

Mardirossian said he first worried that he had taken on a case of “cops versus Samoans” that would be difficult to win.

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But the videotape, just as it did in the more-infamous Rodney G. King case later, was the turning point, he said.

If Sheriff Sherman Block had appropriately and quickly disciplined the deputies, Mardirossian added, “we might not have had the Rodney King incident.”

Several family members hope to buy new homes close together, said David Dole. They are now spread out from Carson to Huntington Beach.

“We’re a very close family,” Arthur Dole said.

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