A lawsuit filed against the city by the children of a 70-year-old man allegedly shot to death by a Los Angeles police officer in 2017 was trimmed Tuesday by a judge who removed one of two officers as defendants in the case.
Ruling on the city’s motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco found there was insufficient evidence to keep Officer Ghanshym Patel as a defendant in the case involving the death of Alejandro Mendez. However, she left intact the rest of the complaint, clearing the way for the trial scheduled Oct. 24.
Plaintiffs Alejandro and Alejandrina Linares, the offspring of Mendez, brought the lawsuit in March 2019, alleging battery, negligence and civil rights violations. Patel and fellow LAPD Officer Charles Garcia were also sued.
According to the lawsuit, Mendez was holding a pipe and appeared to be mentally disturbed when he was confronted by Garcia and Patel.
Patel, who was on his first day of patrol, had a stun gun, but missed his target, 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.
In her ruling, the judge said there are triable issues as to whether Garcia’s failure to carry a stun gun and his decision to not use a bean bag shotgun were proper decisions.
“Moreover, questions of fact exist as to the risk posed by the decedent, whether there was a risk of substantial bodily harm or whether he did in fact advance toward officer Garcia in a manner that suggested he posed an imminent threat of harm,” the judge wrote.
However, Mendez’s relatives “failed to present any evidence that Officer Patel acted with reckless disregard for the rights of the decedent,” the judge concluded.
Garcia had a body camera but it was turned off, and Patel did not have a body camera, according to the suit.
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.
In a sworn statement filed in support of the defense motion asking Orozco to dismiss all or part of the case, Garcia says he had 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.
Mendez was released from prison in December 2016 and about 10 days later, charges were filed against him for “failure to report,” according to the defense attorneys, who added in their court papers that one of the 911 calls prior to the Mendez shooting came from one person reporting that someone had been hit with the pipe twice before officers arrived.
Mendez was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead at about 1:15 p.m., police said previously.