The city of Santa Monica has finalized a settlement with a 31-year-old man who survived being struck in the head by a gunshot fired by a former Santa Monica Police Department officer, it was announced Wednesday.
The $1.75 million settlement was approved by the city late Tuesday, according to Daniel Balaban, the plaintiff’s attorney.
A notice filed in Los Angeles federal court on March 14 stated that the complaint filed by attorneys for Van Nuys resident Wolfgang Mountford was dismissed because the August 2020 suit was in the process of being settled.
The case stems from an encounter around 2 a.m. July 14, 2019, when SMPD officers responded to reports of a disturbance in the 2000 block of Lincoln Court. Earlier that morning, officers handled a call involving a similar complaint about loud noise in the alley. The officers had a non-confrontational encounter with Mountford, ran his identification, and left the premises, according to Balaban.
When the officers returned the second time, about 20 minutes later, they approached driving a dark vehicle without lights. Mountford became scared because he thought the resident who made the complaint was in the car, and he tried to hide behind a trash can, according to the lawsuit.
When former SMPD Officer Eloy Rodriguez began to approach Mountford, he ran past the officer, who fired a single gunshot, striking Mountford in the head causing a severe injury, the suit states.
Police arrested Mountford, and he spent 18 days in jail, received a bill for his hospital treatment, and continues to suffer from the effects of the shooting, Balaban said.
“This settlement offers a sense of justice and vindication for our client who was maligned as a criminal when he was, in fact, a victim of excessive force and civil rights violations by law enforcement,” Balaban said in a statement.
The attorney said the city of Santa Monica fired Rodriguez from the department in May 2020 after an investigation found he violated three municipal codes.
“Wolfgang Mountford faces many emotional and psychological challenges as a result of this shooting, but he’s a survivor,” said the plaintiff’s co-counsel, Jeremy Jass. “He didn’t deserve the fate he suffered at the hands of the Police Department.”