A federal jury awarded $3.6 million to the children of a 28-year-old man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies nearly two years ago in Lynwood, the family’s attorney announced Wednesday.
The verdict — returned Monday — was sealed to the public, but attorney Brian T. Dunn released a statement announcing the award on behalf of Nicholas Robertson’s three minor children, whose wrongful death complaint named the county and deputies Jasen Tapia and Richard Ochoa-Garcia.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the department had no immediate comment.
Sheriff’s officials claimed Robertson pointed a gun toward deputies and that they feared for their lives, but video footage showed that he was walking in the opposite direction of the lawmen when they began shooting him on Dec. 12, 2015, Dunn said.
In all, 33 shots were fired by deputies, 17 of them striking Robertson in front of an Arco gas station near the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. The firearm Robertson was holding at the time was not loaded, the attorney said.
“When we talk about the force that was used in this case, the evidence showed … that Nicholas Robertson suffered 17 gunshot wounds, but only two of them were fatal,” Dunn said. “The pathologist’s opinion was that the last two shots were the fatal shots. So what that means is over a 24-second period in which Mr. Robertson is being shot … he could have lived if they had just not kept shooting him again and again and again and again.”
Dunn said deputies are trained to shoot in two or three round bursts before assessing the situation, but “they did not do that here. Even an adherence to their own training in this situation could have resulted in the saving of a life.”
The lawyer said that by finding that the deputies acted negligently, the jury “sent a message that there are some things that could have been done differently.”
“Perhaps this will result in a change in the way that Los Angeles County trains its deputies,” he said. “Perhaps it can result in a change in the way that they approach individuals such as Nicholas Robertson — who although he was under the influence of a narcotic — was not someone who had harmed anyone. So what we’re hoping is that this verdict will result in no other family having to go through what the Robertson family went through.”
–City News Service
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