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California

Teen shot by LAPD officer files federal civil rights lawsuit against city

Jamar Nicholson

Jamar Nicholson shows a bullet wound on his back. Nicholson was shot Feb. 10 in an alley in South L.A. by an LAPD officer. 

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The mother of a 15-year-old boy who was shot and wounded by a Los Angeles police officer this year has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, the mother of Jamar Nicholson alleges that officers violated her son’s civil rights by using excessive force in the Feb. 10 incident. The father of another teen present during the shooting is also listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

At the time, the LAPD defended the officers who were involved, saying that the shooting occurred after officers caught a glimpse of someone pointing a gun at another person in a South L.A. alley. The department said an officer fired when the person did not obey orders to drop the weapon and turned toward officers.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post said the shooting was in May; it was in February.

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The gun turned out to be a realistic toy replica with an orange-colored tip at the end of the barrel. The LAPD also acknowledged that the teenager who was shot wasn’t the one holding the replica.

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Monday’s lawsuit alleges that the decision by officers to confront and fire at the teenagers was based on their race. Nicholson, who was shot, is African American and the other teen is Mexican American, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that Nicholson was wrongfully detained following the shooting even though he had suffered a serious gunshot wound to his back.

The suit names the officer who fired at the teenagers, Miguel Gutierrez; the city of Los Angeles; LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other unnamed officers as defendants.

Nicholson, 15, and three friends were rapping and dancing in an alley near 10th Street and Florence Avenue before school when plainclothes officers suddenly appeared and fired three rounds at the teenagers without identifying themselves, according to the lawsuit.

Nicholson was struck in the upper back. The lawsuit said that at no time did any of the teenagers pose a threat to officers or do anything to warrant the use of lethal force.

The lawsuit also alleges that following the shooting, officers handcuffed Nicholson, forcing him to sit on the curb without providing him with medical attention. After he was transported to a hospital, he was handcuffed to a gurney and interrogated as a criminal suspect and was not allowed to call his mother, the lawsuit alleges.

In April, attorney John W. Harris, who represents the families, filed a $20-million claim against the city on
behalf of Nicholson. The
city rejected the claim and the families decided to proceed with a lawsuit, Harris said.

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“It was egregious, excessive use of deadly force,” he said. “The circumstances clearly did not warrant or justify the actions taken by the officers.”

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman, said the agency had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and declined to comment.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

For more Los Angeles court news, follow @sjceasar 

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