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Inglewood pays $4.6 million to unarmed victim of police shooting

Police news (Thinkstock).
Police news (Thinkstock).

The city of Inglewood has agreed to pay $4.6 million to a man who was shot in the head by a police officer while unarmed, leaving him with brain injuries.

The man was in a Ford Explorer which stopped on 103rd St. around 1:30 a.m. one night in October 2012. A police cruiser was close behind.

An officer jumped out of the cruiser, advancing quickly with his arms extended, gun drawn, while his partner moved along the passenger side of the Explorer, the Los Angeles Times reported. Seconds later, one of the officers fired a single shot into the car. The bullet struck the driver, Juan Jose Palma, directly in the head, piercing his left temple.

The incident, captured from a distance by a security camera at a nearby auto repair shop, lasted less than 15 seconds, The Times reported. Just  what led the officer to open fire has been the subject of heated dispute for more than four years

Officer Landon Poirier told investigators that Palma ignored repeated commands to show his hands, reached behind him in the car and raised a “long black and silver object.” Fearing Palma was arming himself with a shotgun, Poirier opened fire, according to a memo issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and cited by The Times.

But Palma and his attorney have argued the 46-year-old car wash employee posed no threat to Poirier or anyone else. In an interview, Palma told The Times he was simply reaching for his license and registration. No weapon was found in Palma’s SUV, though prosecutors said there was a baseball bat in the backseat.

A legal battle over the shooting, which left Palma with lasting brain injuries, ended last month, when the city agreed to pay him $4.6 million to settle an excessive-force lawsuit.

Palma’s attorney, R. Samuel Paz, said the city has a history of problems with the way officers use deadly force, and he accused the Police Department of failing to thoroughly investigate shootings by officers. He said the officers were not wearing body cameras and their cruiser was not equipped with a dashboard camera on the night of the shooting, The Times reported.

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