The Board of Supervisors approved a $1.5 million legal settlement Tuesday for the family of a young father shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Cerritos in 2015 when he allegedly used his car to try and run over the lawman.
The lawsuit, which alleged wrongful death, excessive force, assault and battery and civil conspiracy, was filed by Carla Wade, the mother of 21-year-old Nephi Arreguin, on behalf of herself and her grandson, who was 5 months old when his father died.
Deputies said Arreguin was shot on May 7, 2015, on Pires Avenue as he attempted to run over the lawman.
According to the sheriff’s department, deputies had been investigating reports of a suspicious woman knocking on doors in the neighborhood and suspected Arreguin of being part of a burglary team.
While tracking down the woman, one of the deputies spotted Arreguin in a Chevrolet Impala with the seat reclined, possibly sleeping, according to a report prepared by the District Attorney’s Office.
When a deputy yelled, “Let me see your hands,” Arreguin ignored the order and moved his hands toward his waist, leading the lawman to think Arreguin was reaching for a weapon, according to the investigative report.
When Arreguin started the car, the deputy moved to give him room to pass, but Arreguin allegedly accelerated and struck him, causing him to “lose his footing and lean onto the hood.”
The deputy said he believed Arreguin was trying to crush him between the Impala and his patrol car and fired off two rounds in self-defense, according to the report.
A neighbor corroborated the deputy’s report, as did other deputies.
The District Attorney’s Office found that the deputy “acted in lawful self-defense.”
The family’s lawsuit stated that Arreguin was shot while he was sitting in the car and that he drove away “after being shot and suffering from the trauma and shock of a gunshot wound.”
Arreguin “was not armed and was not a threat to life or limb of any peace officer or bystander at the time of the shooting,” the suit said.
Protesters associated with the group Black Lives Matter marched in Cerritos on Memorial Day 2015 to publicize their concerns about the Arreguin shooting.
Wade, who lives in Peoria, Arizona, used sign language to express her feelings about her son.
“He was a good man, he was a good person, he didn’t deserve it,” she said then. “Inside and outside, he was a beautiful person. He’s loving, caring, respectful and everything.”
After he was shot, Arreguin’s car crashed into an electrical box, taking down a light pole and shearing a fire hydrant at Artesia Boulevard and Pires Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Sheriff’s Department changed its policy in 2016 to prohibit firing on a moving car unless deputies are being threatened with a gun or other deadly force other than the vehicle. A department spokesman said the practice was ineffective and threatened bystanders, but that deputies might still be legally justified in such a shooting.
County lawyers cited the risks and uncertainties of trial in recommending the settlement and the board unanimously approved the $1.5 million payout without comment.
–City News Service