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California

County to pay $2.5 million over shooting by off-duty sheriff’s deputy

Los Angeles County supervisors agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle lawsuits relating to an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who shot and wounded two men in a 2011 confrontation at a fast food drive-through.

Plaintiffs Aaron Beierschmitt, Mark Lewis, Donald Deltiempo and Andrew Macaluso claimed that their civil rights were violated by the off-duty deputy, Robert Alvarez. Beierschmitt and Lewis were shot in the incident. The other two were passengers in Lewis’ car.

The encounter took place in the early morning hours on March 26, 2011, at a Del Taco on South Rosemead Boulevard in an unincorporated area near Pasadena. The off-duty deputy was in the drive-through line in his personal car with a woman passenger and the plaintiffs were in the car behind him.

A Sheriff’s Department summary of the incident said Beierschmitt and Lewis “began to yell and make threats” and then got out of their car and approached the off-duty deputy’s vehicle.

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The summary said Alvarez first tried unsuccessfully to call 911, then got out of the car carrying his department-issued gun, identified himself as a deputy and ordered the men to retreat, but instead they lunged at him.

He said he fired at them fearing that they were armed or would take his gun and shoot him. 

Beierschmitt and Lewis were charged with assault and making criminal threats. The assault charge against Beierschmitt was later dismissed, and he was acquitted of the threats charge. Lewis was found guilty of misdemeanor assault but acquitted on the threats charge.

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The other two men in the car were also arrested, but were not ultimately charged with a crime.

All four men sued the county. The lawsuit filed by Beierschmitt said the men were unarmed and argued that the deputy had fired his gun “without sufficient provocation or legal justification” and that Beierschmitt had suffered “major internal injuries” and had to undergo surgery and other expensive medical treatment as a result of the shooting.

Officials with the district attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department concluded that the deputy acted legally and within policy.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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