Jury Awards $24 Million To 13-Year-Old Paralyzed By LAPD Gunfire
A boy paralyzed after being shot by an LAPD officer was awarded a record $24 million settlement by a jury.
Rohayent Gomez was 13 years old when he was shot by a police officer in Glassell Park in December 2010, according to City News Service. On the night of the shooting, Officer Victor Abarca and his partner were on patrol looking for signs of gang activity and graffiti. They came upon Gomez and two of his friends before 8 pm. All three boys had air soft pistols that look like real guns but shoot plastic pellets.
Witnesses told the jury that when officers arrived, they drew their weapons. Gomez was hidden behind a parked van reloading his gun, unaware of the police. He was startled when police came around the side of the van. Witnesses said Abarca gave a single command ordering Gomez not to move before firing a single shot through his chest.
The eyewitness accounts were markedly different from the account Abarca gave, according to the Los Angeles Times. Abarca claimed that he gave Gomez repeated warnings to come out from behind the van before he fired. The trajectory of the bullet backed up the eyewitness accounts.
Casillas said in settlement talks the city offered Gomez $5,000. He said, "It wasn't even insulting. It was ridiculous. They have no sense of reality. The physical evidence against the officer was truly amazing."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck released a statement about the verdict:
"This is a tragedy for all involved, but in particular for the young man injured in this police shooting and for the officer who believed that he was protecting himself and his partner from a real threat. The replica gun [Rohayent Gomez] had was indistinguishable from a real handgun on a dark night. When our officers are confronted with a realistic replica weapon in the field, they have to react in a split second to the perceived threat. If our officers delay or don’t respond to armed suspects, it could cost them their lives."
The Los Angeles Police Commission cleared Abarca in the case last year.Gomez's attorney Arnaldo Casillas told CNS that Gomez cried when he heard the verdict: "He was in disbelief."