Three adult children of a woman shot to death by Los Angeles police officers while being held hostage by a suspect in 2018 in Van Nuys settled their lawsuit with the three lawmen, attorneys in the case told a judge Tuesday.
The decedent, 49-year-old Elizabeth Tollison, was killed on June 16, 2018, at the Central Lutheran Church on Tyrone Avenue.
Tollison’s sons, Jesse Pelaez and Nick Ramirez, and daughter, Rebecca Tollison, sued in September 2018, naming as defendants the city of Los Angeles as well as Officers Eugene Damiano, Andrew Trock and Cristian Bonilla. The city was dropped as a defendant in March 2020.
In notifying Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Bernie LaForteza of the settlement during Tuesday’s status conference, the attorneys did not divulge any terms.
According to the plaintiffs’ court papers, when the officers responded to a 911 call of an attack on someone with a knife at the church, they encountered 32-year-old Guillermo Perez outside with a knife in his right hand and a wooden chair in his left hand. Perez was not threatening anyone and the officers should have been able to ascertain that he was emotionally disturbed, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
The officers held Perez at gunpoint and screamed commands at him while Tollison stood between Perez and the officers, according to the plaintiffs’ court papers. The officers later fired a beanbag shotgun at Perez, but did not try to move Tollison out of the way, according to the court papers.
As the officers moved closer to Perez, he allegedly grabbed Tollison and held a knife near her throat. They then fired 18 shots, two of which hit Tollison in the head and left shoulder. She died days later at a hospital, the plaintiffs’ court papers state. Perez also was struck by gunfire and killed.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore concluded that all of the officers failed to formulate a clear plan or did not take proper cover as outlined in the department’s policies. Moore also characterized the shooting as a “rapidly unfolding” tactical situation in which the officers had to make immediate decisions.
Moore said the shooting prompted the LAPD to review and update the department’s less-lethal weapon options and training procedures.
In May 2019, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners found that two of the three officers involved acted outside of compliance with the department’s policies.
In his court papers, attorney Peter Ferguson, on behalf of the three officers, said they all believed deadly force was necessary because they believed Tollison’s life was in danger.