A lawsuit filed against the city by the children of a 70-year-old man concerning the Los Angeles Police Department’s shooting death of their father in 2017 should be dismissed because the officers acted in defense of themselves and bystanders, attorneys for the city and two officers argue in new court papers.
Plaintiffs Alejandro and Alejandrina Linares, the offspring of the late Alejandro Mendez, brought the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit in March 2019, alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations. LAPD Officers Charles Garcia and Ghanshym Patel also are named as defendants.
In a sworn statement filed Friday in support of the defense motion asking Judge Yolanda Orozco to dismiss the case during a hearing scheduled Oct. 19, Garcia says he had no choice but to shoot Mendez because the man was threatening him and Patel with a metal pipe or pole near Olympic Boulevard and Main Street on March 4, 2017, and other means to subdue him were unsuccessful.
While en route to the scene, the officers discussed the best way to subdue Mendez, Garcia says. After they arrived and Mendez walked toward them with the pipe, Patel fired his stun gun twice, but one dart bounced off one of Mendez’s arms and the second missed him, according to Garcia.
“We continued to yell, `Drop the stick,”’ Garcia says. “(Mendez) then backed up, but continued to walk around in different directions while still holding the metal pipe and refusing to comply with our orders to drop it. A bystander was yelling at us to shoot (Mendez).”
Mendez again turned toward the officers and took three quick steps toward Garcia while still holding the pipe with two hands, according to Garcia.
“I then fired two rounds,” Garcia says, adding that Mendez, who was about eight feet away, fell to the ground.
“I fired because (Mendez) was not obeying my commands and I was afraid that he was going to hit me or Officer Patel or the many bystanders with the metal pipe,” Garcia says.
In their court papers, defense attorneys state that Mendez was a registered sex offender who had forced his 9-year-old daughter to perform a sex act on him and who had been released from prison in December 2016. Some 10 days later, charges were filed against him for “failure to report,” according to the defense attorneys’ court papers.
One of the 911 calls regarding Mendez wielding a pipe just three months later included one person reporting that someone had been hit with the object twice before officers arrived, according to the defense attorneys’ court papers.
Mendez was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead at about 1:15 p.m., police said previously.
According to the lawsuit, Mendez was in a state of distress and appeared to be mentally disturbed when he was confronted by Garcia and Patel. Mendez had a “stick” in his hand and was yelling at pedestrians.
Patel, who was on his first day of patrol, had a stun gun, but didn’t have a second cartridge, the suit states. The veteran Garcia did not have a stun gun, according to the suit, which adds that the officers left their bean bag shotgun in the patrol car.
Garcia had a body camera but it was turned off, and Patel did not have a body camera, according to the complaint.
The officers yelled at Mendez, who turned toward them, but did not threaten them with the stick, the suit states. Patel fired his stun gun at Mendez and missed, the suit states.
Bystanders began yelling, but the officers did not de-escalate the situation and Garcia fired two shots at Mendez, killing him, the suit states.
In 2018, the Police Commission found Garcia’s use of lethal force to be out of policy, the suit states. The commission also determined that Garcia’s failure to have a stun gun was a “substantial deviation” from approved department tactical training and without justification, according to the suit.
Patel limited the officers’ options by not having another stun gun cartridge, the commission concluded, according to the suit.
The commission also said that Garcia and Patel should have retrieved the bean bag shotgun instead of using lethal force, the suit states.