The city of Long Beach has reached a $2-million settlement with the family of a man with mental illness who was shot and killed by police in a 2015 encounter at an arcade.
Two officers responded to Looff's Lite-A-Line after customers complained that Mharloun Saycon, 39, had a pocket knife and workers needed help escorting him out. When the officers arrived, they ordered Saycon to drop the knife. They both struck him with an electric stun weapon and one hit him with a baton before the other officer fatally shot him.
Dan Stormer, an attorney representing the family, said the knife was on the man's lap and there was "no indicator that he's in the least bit dangerous." He called the shooting an unreasonable use of force.
The city contends the officers acted lawfully and reasonably, but said it settled the case to avoid the risk of a larger payout at trial.
"It seemed to be a fair settlement for all parties and it enabled us to resolve the matter without… the need for trial and potential greater financial exposure," said Deputy City Atty. Howard Russell.
In the settlement agreement, the city does not admit liability or wrongdoing. Russell said both officers still work for the Long Beach Police Department.
In court documents, the city said Saycon was holding the knife and ignored the officers' verbal commands to drop it. After the officers used a Taser and one struck him with a baton, Saycon opened the blade of his knife, pointed it at one of the officers and started to stand, the city said. Fearing for his life, the officer opened fire, the filing said.
The family's attorney said Saycon was a regular at the arcade and said workers who called the police that night noted that he was not threatening anyone. Saycon stayed seated during the entire encounter until he collapsed from the chair after getting shot, Stormer said. He died at the scene.
Saycon emigrated from the Philippines in 1985. He was an athlete and honor student at Santa Monica High School and attended Santa Monica College before he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in his early 20s, his family has said.
"All we want is our son, who deserved to live," the man's father, Khanly Saycon, said in a statement. "While nothing can bring him back to us, if this case saves even just one life by holding the police more accountable for how they treat people with mental illness, that's the most I can hope for."
Stormer said the man's parents hope the settlement will lead police agencies to improve their training on approaching people who have mental illness.
"What we're seeing in L.A. County is not a single officer gets prosecuted. Something has to give," Stormer said. "We cannot simply give officers a badge and a gun and tell them that when they are scared they can shoot someone. There has to be accountability."