8-year-old son of Black man killed by Gardena police will get $1.3 million in settlement

People in a park with signs that read Black Lives Matter and Justice
Protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally in Gardena last year call for justice in the fatal police shooting of Kenneth Ross Jr.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The child of a Black man who was fatally shot by Gardena police in 2018 — and whose death spurred lawmakers to enact a state law that decertifies officers who act criminally or with bias — has settled a federal lawsuit with the city for $1.3 million, according to an attorney for the man’s son.

Kenneth Ross Jr., 25, was killed by police in 2018 after officers responded to reports of a man firing his weapon in a park in Gardena. His death also prompted calls for police reform.

Attorneys Carl Douglas and Jamon Hicks, who represented Ross’ 8-year-old son, announced the settlement Wednesday in a news release. Ross’ mother and father also settled separately with the city for lesser amounts.


Hicks said the city of Gardena did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement. The lawyer said the mother of Ross’ son believes the new state law is more important than the settlement and shows that he didn’t die in vain.

Lethal force against a young black man in his California district prompted Sen. Steven Bradford to battle for a landmark police reform measure.

Speaking with The Times on Thursday, Hicks called the new law “huge.”

“Not only does it go through the decertification process, it goes the extra mile when it comes to transparency,” he said.

The law will be part of Ross’ legacy and be something his son can look back on, Hicks said.

The settlement provides a resolution to the case that Hicks said was very important to the child’s mother.

“The mother didn’t want the type of press that came with this,” Hicks said. “What this does is also bring closure to a very, very sad and tragic incident. She can focus on moving him forward and doesn’t have to worry about a public trial.”

Haytham Faraj, who represented Ross’ mother, Fouzia Almarou, said their settlement has not yet been formally approved by the Gardena City Council, so he could not disclose the amount.

Faraj called the settlement “some modicum of accountability” and said the family had worked for changes to policing and prosecution for others in light of Ross’ death.

Attorney Arash Zabetian, who represented Ross’ father, Kenneth Ross Sr., said in an email that the shooting should never have occurred.

“The police officers involved clearly engaged in misconduct,” Zabetian said. “The purpose of the involvement of the officer who killed Mr. Ross was not to preserve the peace. He was the only officer who felt the need to use and used deadly force. The fact that his department and the union stood by him despite of such clear constitutional violations is extremely disappointing.”

Lawyers for the city of Gardena, the Police Department and the officer who fatally shot Ross could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ross was spotted running near the park and kept going even though officers were chasing him and demanding that he stop. Michael Robbins, the officer who shot Ross in the back and shoulder with a rifle, told investigators he believed Ross was reaching for a gun and feared for his life.

The fate of a bill that would allow California to decertify officers who commit serious misconduct is uncertain as it faces unexpectedly strong opposition in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Authorities later found a pink handgun in Ross’ shorts, but his family disputes that he was armed. Robbins was cleared of wrongdoing by the district attorney’s office but had previously been involved in three other shootings. Robbins retired in 2020.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Kenneth Ross Jr. Decertification Act of 2021 near where Ross was killed. The nation’s most populous state was one of just a handful without such a statewide system to strip officers of their badges in these scenarios.

Officers can now lose their certification for serious misconduct including using excessive force, committing sexual assault, intimidating witnesses, making a false arrest or report, or participating in a law enforcement gang. Other grounds include “demonstrating bias” based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or mental disability, among other criteria.

Ross’ family filed a federal lawsuit against Robbins and the city of Gardena, and online court records show the parties reached a settlement in September, several weeks before Newsom signed the legislation. The court records do not include the settlement agreement.

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.