*Two LAPD officers claim they were retaliated against after the fatal shooting of Steven Washington, a black man with autism. They have been awarded $4 million in a discrimination lawsuit. The two cops sued the LAPD after the fatal incident, which happened in 2010.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury ruled in favor of the officers after deliberating for nearly three days. The officers, both Latinos, are Allan Corrales, 35, and George Diego, 34. Corrales has been awarded more than $2 million and Diego, $1.9 million.
The autistic man’s mother received $950,000 as part of a settlement in 2012 after she filed a claim against the city.
The mother’s attorney, Brian Dunn, claims he is surprised by the decision to award the officers damages, saying “there is nothing at all justified about this shooting.”
Washington, was shot in the face by Corrales, according to the attorney – who says, “It was one of the worst shootings we have seen.” He added, “They took the life of an unarmed, autistic man for no reason whatsoever.”
Gregory W. Smith, the officers’ attorney, said the jury’s verdict proves that there are much larger issues that need to be addressed: Officers need more training on how to handle people with mental illness, and those suffering with mental illness need more protection and support.
“You don’t fix the problem by blaming two people for what they were trained to do,” said Smith, who also has a child with autism.
Smith does not think the legal battle over this case is done yet.
The Los Angeles city attorney is reviewing the verdict and is “exploring the city’s options going forward,” spokesman Frank Mateljan said. And in a statement, the LAPD said it was working with the city attorney’s office.
LAPD chief, Charlie Beck, said, “I do not have confidence in their ability to perform the duties of a field officer. I have no immediate intention of returning them to the field.”
In the suit filed by the officers in 2012, they alleged they repeatedly faced discrimination and retaliation within the department because they are Latino and the slain man, Washington, 27, was black. Corrales and Diego said they made requests to return to the field but were allegedly denied and also passed over for promotions and transfers.
Many people of color find this assertion unbelievable. The police dept. is most likely, predominantly, white – which makes it unbelievable that they would punish anyone more less retaliate against them, for killing a black man…autistic or not.
Yet the officers contend they were given desk jobs after the fatal shooting because they were unfit to work in the field and not because of their race.
This certainly makes more sense.
The officers, he said, made serious tactical errors during their encounter with Washington. But chief Beck called the shooting “justified” because he said the officers feared for their lives.
The civilian commission that oversees the LAPD, however, found the officers violated the department’s use-of-force policy and that the shooting was unreasonable.
“I do not have confidence in their ability to perform the duties of a field officer,” Beck said. “I have no immediate intention of returning them to the field.”
Smith said during the trial a white officer testified that he had shot an unarmed Latino and was allowed to return to field work after a six-week probation.
Washington was unarmed and not involved in criminal activity when he was shot and killed in March 2010 in Koreatown.
Smith said a video of the shooting showed Washington turning violently at the officers.
After the shooting, Washington’s relatives and the American Civil Liberties Union called on the LAPD for more information to justify the shooting.
“You put officers on the streets to do a job, but they are not social workers,” Smith said, adding that officers then “get blamed for making spot decisions.”
“The bigger issue,” he continued, “is what can we do to train our officers to be able to determine whether someone has mental illness”
No sir, the bigger issue is that officers should be trained to think before they shoot.
Read more FOR THE RECORD details on this story at the L. A. Times