A jury in a federal court in Santa Ana Friday rejected an excessive-force lawsuit filed by the family of a 22-year-old man fatally shot by an Anaheim police officer two years ago.
The family of Gustavo Adolfo Najera sued the city of Anaheim, alleging excessive force and negligence in the Feb. 9, 2016, shooting by Officer German Alvarez.
“We thank the jury for their understanding of the difficult situation our officer found himself in,” city spokesman Mike Lyster said. “Regardless of circumstance, any loss of life in our city is tragic, and we will reflect on this. Our thoughts go out to the family and everyone impacted.”
The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and reached a verdict Friday afternoon.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office also cleared Alvarez of any criminal wrongdoing in a report issued in August of 2016.
Prosecutors said Alvarez responded to a call of a suspicious man “turning door knobs and ringing door bells” at an apartment complex at 1300 W. Lido Place just before midnight, Feb. 8, 2016.
When Alvarez, who has been with the Anaheim police since 2002, could not find a suspect with help from another officer he decided to check nearby Sage Park, prosecutors said. It was at Sage Park that he encountered Najera, who began walking toward the officer’s squad car while shining a flashlight at the vehicle.
Alvarez said he could not see Najera’s right arm and appeared to be concealing it on purpose, prosecutors said. Alvarez said he thought it was suspicious because transients, who are known to frequent the park, tend to shy away from police and do not confront them.
Alvarez told Najera, “You gotta go,” which prompted Najera to ask why, prosecutors said. When the officer told him the park was closed, Najera said, “I hate cops” before hurling sand at the squad car.
Alvarez opened fire and Najera sustained a fatal wound, prosecutors said.
Najera had amphetamine, methamphetamine and marijuana in his system, according to the autopsy.
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