A lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County and two sheriff’s deputies by a man who alleges he was left paralyzed during a deputy-involved shooting in March at his Cudahy home was put on hold by a judge pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against the plaintiff stemming from the same incident.
On Oct. 14, plaintiff Isaias Cervantes was charged with one count of assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer engaged in the performance of his duties and two counts of preventing or resisting an officer’s performance of duties with force or violence.
During a hearing last Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laura A. Seigle agreed with defense attorneys that a section of the state Government Code prevents the filing of civil lawsuits that might give the plaintiff an unfair advantage in defending oneself against criminal charges and that civil suits should not be used as bargaining chips in criminal plea negotiations.
Additionally, a stay is appropriate because a potential conviction could preclude some of the causes of action in Cervantes’ civil case, which include assault, battery, negligence, civil rights violations and that the deputies used violence and unreasonable force, Seigle wrote. A conviction for assault with a deadly weapon would establish the officers acted lawfully and without unreasonable or excessive force, and a civil action finding otherwise would therefore necessarily imply the invalidity of the convictions, the judge wrote.
Cervantes’ allegation for false arrest/imprisonment could similarly be barred because it is premised on the assumption the officers’ conduct in arresting him was unlawful, the judge wrote.
Lawyers for Cervantes opposed the stay, stating in their court papers that their client is autistic and bipolar and that the criminal charges — brought seven months after the shooting — were “wildly disparate” to the facts of the case.
“The filing of criminal charges against Isaias Cervantes sounds of despotic collusion between ostensibly independent county agencies,” Cervantes’ lawyers stated in their court papers.
The suit was filed Aug 9. Other plaintiffs are Rosa Padilla, the mother and conservator of Cervantes, and his sister, Yajaira Cervantes. The judge ruled that their individual claims should also be stayed.
The deputies named as defendants are David Vega and Jonathan Miramontes.
“Defendants Vega and Miramontes deliberately incited a crisis where there had been calm, irrationally panicked, then recklessly shot their way out of an imagined danger,” according to the suit.
The LASD previously reported that deputies were called at about 8:40 p.m. March 31 to a home in the 5100 block of Live Oak Street after a caller said Cervantes was experiencing a mental health crisis and was causing a disturbance by pushing other family members.
The caller also told a dispatcher that Cervantes had obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and was hard of hearing, deputies said.
Two deputies approached the home and asked Cervantes to come outside with them, but when he declined they entered the home and attempted to detain him with handcuffs, according to the department. An LASD video then shows Cervantes fighting with the deputies with both body cameras falling to the floor.
One of the deputies can be heard in the video saying, “He’s going for my gun, he’s going for my gun,” and the other deputy can then be heard asking, “Does he have your gun?”
The first deputy did not answer and one shot is heard being fired.
According to the lawsuit, Cervantes’ sister was the one who called 911 and she “plainly and specifically requested mental health support” for her sibling after telling the dispatcher her brother was deaf and disabled, according to the suit.
Vega and Miramontes were met on the sidewalk outside the home by Padilla and Cervantes’ therapist, the suit states.
After Padilla told the deputies that her son was afraid of LASD deputies because he believed they often harm people and he feared they would harm him, Vega’s demeanor became “noticeably more aggressive,” the suit states.
The deputies entered the home, went into the living room, flanked Cervantes and told him to stand up, the suit states. They began handcuffing him, causing him to turn away, the suit states.
Miramontez grabbed Cervantes around the neck and pushed him to the floor, causing Cervantes to lose his hearing aid, according to the suit.
The suit also accuses Miramontes of falsely saying that Cervantes was going for his gun. The deputy’s holster has a dual safety lock system that prevents the gun from being removed by anyone in the position Cervantes found himself, the suit states.
Nonetheless, Vega, “encouraged” by Miramontes, drew his gun, pressed it against Cervantes’ back and fired, causing a bullet to tear through Cervantes’ lungs and spine, the suit states.
Cervantes was left paralyzed, bullet fragments remain imbedded in his back and he can no longer control his bowels or urine, according to the suit.
Padilla went to the hospital to visit Cervantes on April 1 and was blocked from doing so by a “phalanx of LASD deputy sheriffs, who told her she could not visit (her son) because he was in criminal custody of the Los Angeles (County) Sheriff’s Department,” the suit states.