A jury Wednesday evening awarded $8.8 million to the family of a man fatally shot by a Culver City police officer, attorneys for the family said.
The unanimous verdict came in U.S. District Court after jurors deliberated for a few hours over the 2010 death of Lejoy Grissom.
Grissom, 27, was shot about midday on April 25 after he was pulled over in a parking lot by an officer on suspicion that he had robbed a nearby electronics store shortly before, said Matthew McNicholas, who represented one of Grissom’s four children.
Four other officers and a supervisor responded to the parking lot to assist. With guns drawn, the officers ordered Grisson out of his car, said Dale Galipo, the attorney for the other three children.
Moments after Grissom got out of the vehicle, Officer Luis Martinez fired three rounds from a submachine gun, all of which struck Grissom, Galipo said.
The other officers at the scene all testified that Grissom was facing the officers and had nothing in his hands when he was shot, the attorneys said.
Martinez, however, claimed that Grissom had his back to the officers and suddenly spun around toward them with a shiny object in his hand that appeared to be a gun, according to the attorneys.
Grissom was found to be unarmed, McNicholas said.
Each of Grissom’s children was awarded $2 million and the jury added $825,000 in additional compensation.
“I’m thrilled for his four children and hope this verdict helps them through the rest of their lives,” McNicholas said.
Galipo added that the case was complicated by the fact that police suspected Grissom of committing a rash of armed robberies and that he had, in fact, robbed the electronics store that day.
Culver City Police Chief Don Pedersen said the department and city officials had not decided whether to appeal the verdict.
“We are obviously very, very disappointed,” he said.
Martinez, the chief said, was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which conducts investigations into officer-involved shootings for Culver City. The district attorney’s office also reviewed the case and concluded that Martinez had broken no laws, Pedersen said.
The chief declined to discuss the discrepency between what Martinez claimed he saw and the testimony of the other officers.