A civil jury awarded $4.5 million to the family of an emotionally distraught Sylmar man who died after being shot by a Los Angeles police SWAT officer during an overnight standoff, an attorney announced Friday.
The jury in Los Angeles federal court on Thursday unanimously found that the officer acted with “reckless disregard,” supporting a finding of compensatory wrongful death damages, according to Dale K. Galipo, the family’s lead lawyer.
An LAPD spokesman declined comment on the case.
The trouble began April 5, 2016, when the family of Cesar Frias called for help in getting medical and mental health attention for the 20-year-old man, who had recently lost his mother to cancer and was grieving.
Officers attempted to subdue the man using a Taser and bean bag gun, but neither of the weapons appeared to have an effect, evidence showed. Frias then went inside the home, triggering an overnight standoff with police. SWAT officers, a psychologist and a crisis team made attempts to contact him, police said.
Sometime after midnight, SWAT officers fired gas into the house. About 1:30 a.m., Frias walked out of the home without warning and SWAT officers again fired Taser darts and bean bag rounds at him, according to LAPD.
Frias then ran to the side of the house into the backyard, where SWAT officers attempted to apprehend him. During the struggle, Frias allegedly cut one of the officers in the arm, police said, and the officer’s partner fired a lethal round.
Galipo said the only object in Frias’ hand was a “small pair of scissors.”
The jury in downtown Los Angeles awarded $4.5 million to Juan Frias and Layla D., the father and minor child of Cesar Frias — who would have turned 24 years old Friday. The jury unanimously found that SWAT officers used excessive force against Frias, denied him medical attention and acted with reckless disregard for his constitutional rights, the plaintiffs’ attorney said.
There was no offer of settlement, which forced Frias’ family to go to trial, Galipo said.
“I am very pleased with the jury’s verdict and hope that this will bring some closure to Mr. Frias’ family,” Galipo said. “There seems to be a pattern of police excessive force used against individuals with a mental illness or in a mental crisis, and this needs to change. I’m hopeful that the LAPD and other departments will improve their training and de-escalation tactics when dealing with the mentally ill.”