City to Pay $6 Million to Family of Man Slain by SWAT Team
A tiny Central Valley city agreed Thursday to pay $6 million to the family of a farm worker shot to death by a SWAT team with little experience that stormed his home in search of a shotgun they didn’t find.
The settlement brings an end to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Dinuba by the estate of Ramon Gallardo Sr., a case his family hopes will force small municipalities nationwide to think twice about whether they need special weapons teams.
A jury in a civil trial originally awarded $12.5 million to Gallardo’s wife, 13 children and two other relatives who were at his home when he was killed. But a federal judge reduced the amount to $7 million.
Dinuba, a farming community of 15,000 about 30 miles south of Fresno, had appealed the judgment. The settlement is to be paid in the next 30 days by the California Joint Powers Risk Management Authority, an insurance pool to which the city of Dinuba and other public entities contribute.
Gallardo, a 64-year-old farm worker, was shot 15 times on July 11, 1997, when members of Dinuba’s Special Enforcement Unit, wearing hoods, masks and camouflage outfits, burst through an unlocked front door and into a bedroom where he was sleeping.
“I thought they were robbers,” Gallardo’s wife, Carmen, testified during the civil trial.
The special unit, which was created earlier that year and had undergone three training sessions, was serving a search warrant after a jailed informant told investigators that a shotgun used in an attempted gang murder had been sold to one of Gallardo’s sons.
Police said Gallardo grabbed a knife and moved toward officers, who fired in self-defense.
The gun the officers were looking for was never found, and the informant reportedly later recanted.