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Inglewood Will Pay $4.6 Million to Unarmed Man Shot In Head By Police

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(Photo by pravin.premkumar via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The City of Inglewood agreed last month to pay $4.6 million to 46-year-old Juan Jose Palma, who was shot by an Inglewood police officer after being asked to pull over, reports the L.A. Times.

The incident happened in October 7, 2012 at around 1:30 a.m. Palma, who worked at a car wash, was driving his Ford Explorer in Inglewood when he was told to pull over by a squad car. What happened after would later be argued in court. Either way it ended with officer Landon Poirier firing a single shot that struck Palma in the left temple.

Prosecutors said that Palma had been driving slowly for several blocks after being told to pull over for running a stop sign on South Freeman Avenue and 104th Street. Poirier told investigators that, when Palma finally stopped, he did not comply with demands—given in both English and Spanish— to show his hands to officers. Poirier said that he saw Palma, who was still in his car, reach for something behind his back and produce a "long black and silver object," which Poirier suspected was a shotgun, according to a report from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. That's when Poirier fired into the car. Investigators did not find a firearm in Palma's car, though prosecutors claim there was a baseball bat in the backseat.

Poirier told investigators that, at the time of the shooting, he'd heard of a recent incident in which Inglewood officers were fired upon by a driver who'd also continued to drive slowly for blocks after being told by officers to stop.

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"Given the totality of the facts in this case, we have determined that Poirier acted in self-defense," said District Attorney Jackie Lacey in his report.

R. Samuel Paz, Palma's attorney, said that the officers were not wearing body cameras, nor was there a dashboard camera in the squad car. The incident was captured, however, by a security camera at a nearby auto shop.

Sid Heal, chairman of strategy development for the National Tactical Officers Association, reviewed the case for the Times and said that he regarded the shooting as "lawful but awful." He said that, in his opinion, the right course of action would have been for Poirier to call for backup if he'd felt that Palma was acting suspiciously.

Palma survived the shooting but needed months of occupational therapy in order to speak coherently again. He still struggles with a speech disability today. "When I try to speak, sometimes I can't remember the words," Palma told the Times.