Teen Playing With Airsoft Gun Shot And Paralyzed By LAPD Gets $15 Million
A teenager with an Airsoft gun who was shot and paralyzed by LAPD officers has settled with the city for $15 million.
On December 16, 2010, Royahent Gomez Eriza, who was 13 at the time, was playing with two friends in the street in Glassell Park when two LAPD officers saw them while on patrol. According to the police account, the officer thought Gomez Eriza was an adult and was not able to tell his Airsoft gun, which had an orange tip, was only a replica. One of the officers shot Gomez Eriza and the bullet shattered his vertebrae, making him paralyzed from the chest down.
In 2012, Gomez Eriza was awarded $24 million by a jury, but the city appealed the decision. On Wednesday, the L.A. Times reports, the city announced it had settled the lawsuit for $15 million. Gomez Eriza's attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, says they settled in order to avoid going to trial again. He criticized the LAPD for saying the shooting was within policy, adding, "It's another example of how their inability to evaluate these shootings in an honest way ends up costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars."
"The replica gun Gomez Eriza had was indistinguishable from a real handgun on a dark night," said Chief Charlie Beck in a statement in response to the verdict in 2012. "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." Beck asked the city to appeal the verdict in because he believed the judgment was "unwarranted."
A spokesman with the LAPD told the L.A. Times it had no comment on the settlement.
At the time, the $24 million verdict was believed to be the largest amount the LAPD ever awarded for a wrongful shooting. Gomez Eriza is now 18 years old.
"The money is nothing in life," Gomez Eriza told NBC Los Angeles in 2012. "It helps, but it's not the important thing."