The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay $1.9 million after LAPD officers shot and killed a mentally ill, wheelchair-bound man.
After his death on April 21, 2015, the police department claimed Luis Molina Martinez, 35, lunged at them with a knife, which made them fear for their lives, prompting them to shoot him four times.
“One officer then kicked Mr. Martinez twice and none of the officers made any attempt at providing medical attention,” the lawsuit that prompted the settlement stated.
Arnold Casillas, the attorney representing Martinez’s wife and children, disputed the account of the incident, saying Martinez’s injuries were so serious that he would have been physically unable to stand up after falling from a balcony, which left him wheelchair bound and unable to move towards the officers.
Casillas maintained Martinez was unarmed and argued the shooting was “unreasonable, unnecessary, excessive and unjustified under the law” and noted the LAPD police chief along with the commission faulted the officers for not bringing their Tasers into Martinez’s apartment even though they knew they were responding to a report of a suicidal man who stabbed himself.
“This is a classic example of Keystone Kops-type antics,” Casillas said.
According to his wife, Monica Ramirez, Martinez became depressed from not being able to return to work.
Luis Molina Martinez
It was Martinez’s wife who called 911 on April 21, 2015, reporting her husband had become suicidal and was bloody after cutting himself with a knife, but that he was no longer armed.
When officers responded, they claim Martinez was sitting in a wheel chair with his shirt covered in blood.
According to the report, when they attempted to speak with him, Martinez pull a knife from under his leg and ignored officers’ commands to drop it.
Police allege he pressed the knife to his chest and “walked at a fast pace” lunging towards them.
Fearing for his life, officer Rudolph Rivera fired first.
Martinez fell to the ground and, according to police, pushed himself up and “lunged” again.
Rivera fired a second round into Martinez’s upper torso area.
At the same time, officers Ricardo Huerto and Aldo Quinerto fired shots that struck Martinez.
Emergency personnel arrived shortly after to pronounce Martinez dead.
The shooting was so egregious, even LAPD Chief Charlie Beck along with the police commission criticized the officer’s tactics, although they said shooting fell within policy.
The City Council approved the amount with a 12-1 vote, with the only no-vote cast by former LAPD cop Councilman Joe Buscaino.
Buscaino, pictured below, created LAPD’s first Teen Community Police Adisary Board, which sought to break barriers between teens and police.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino
The settlement comes at the same time Los Angeles’ comptroller Ron Galperin issued a warning that the city’s expenses are exceeding its revenue.
“This is a time for the city to take stock and make sure to not overextend itself,” Controller Ron Galperin said, according to Los Angeles Daily News.
“The city needs a budget that is based on actual revenues and that builds rather than depletes hard-earned reserves.”
The Los Angeles Police Department paid nearly $81 million in legal settlement during the 2016 fiscal year.