A Los Angeles Police Department cruiser. Photo by John Schreiber
File photo by John Schreiber

A Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed a man two years ago after a high-speed pursuit that ended in Burbank will not face criminal charges, according to a document released Tuesday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

“We conclude that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (LAPD Officer Brian) Van Gorden’s decision to use deadly force was unreasonable under these tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances,” prosecutors concluded in a seven-page memorandum released in connection with the March 5, 2015 shooting of Sergio Navas, 35.

Attorney Luis Carrillo, who represented Navas’ family in a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles that resulted in a $2.5 million settlement, said he was disappointed that the officer was not charged.

He noted that the Los Angeles Police Commission found that the officer had violated department policy, and said he believed the officer should have been charged with at least voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors noted that Van Gorden and another LAPD officer were on patrol in North Hollywood in a marked SUV early that morning when they noticed a 2003 Mercury Sable with paper license plates traveling north on Cahuenga Boulevard at an estimated speed of 80 mph in a 35 mph zone, and that Navas initially stopped and then accelerated away as both officers approached the vehicle.

Navas evaded the officers, driving approximately 60 mph in a 25 mph zone and proceeding through a residential neighborhood before entering the 134 Freeway and traveling at more than 100 mph before exiting at Bob Hope Drive, according to the memorandum from the District Attorney’s Office.

As the pursuit approached a cul-de-sac, Navas stopped the vehicle he was driving, the officers’ SUV came to a stop next to the vehicle and Navas quickly opened the door of the car he was driving, according to the document.

“The fact that Van Gorden fired his duty weapon from inside the vehicle corroborates that he was honestly in fear,” prosecutors wrote, while noting that no weapon belonging to Navas was located.

Navas had “many felony and misdemeanor convictions” and was on felony probation at the time, and methamphetamine, marijuana and 17 tablets of alprazolam were found in the vehicle, which was determined to be stolen, and according to the document.

“Although there may have been other reasonable options available to Van Gorden at the time, Van Gorden’s determination that Navas posed a deadly and immediate threat based upon the totality of Navas’ actions was also a reasonable interpretation of the circumstantial evidence available to him,” prosecutors wrote.

Navas’ family had called on the District Attorney’s Office to file criminal charges against the officer last year, one day after the Police Commission’s ruling.

–City News Service

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