Family of innocent man awarded $14.35M settlement after deputies fatally shot him

"We are always striving to improve how we handle split-second life and death situations in an effort to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.”

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Image Credit: The Mendoza family

In a case of mistaken identity, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies were responsible for fatally shooting an innocent man attempting to flee an active crime scene with his family. On Monday, the family’s attorney announced that Los Angeles County had settled their negligence lawsuit for $14.35 million.

On August 1, 2014, LASD deputies arrived at a residence in Pico Rivera to arrest Cedric Ramirez, 24, for parole violations, including being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent. According to an LASD press release, Ramirez fled on foot in an attempt to evade the deputies.

While searching for Ramirez, deputies entered a nearby home occupied by Frank Mendoza Sr., 54, and members of his family. According to the family’s lawsuit, the deputies left the family vulnerable when they departed, thus allowing the parolee to enter the residence after they departed.

“As a result, (Mendoza and his relatives), fearing for their lives, had no choice but to attempt to escape from their home without the assistance of the (deputies),” the suit stated.

“He entered the backyard of the victims’ residence where he exchanged gunfire with the deputies,” the LASD press release noted. “Ramirez then broke into the victims’ home through a window and, in an attempt by the deputies to get the residents out of the home, a second exchange of gunfire occurred and the male victim was hit by gunfire. The deputies rescued the 54-year old victim who was slumped over in the doorway, but he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.”

In a previous press release from 2014, then-interim Sheriff John Scott wrote, “As deputies contained the house, suspect Ramirez made his way to the back of the house as some family members were able to escape to safety out the front. The suspect then fired again at deputies, this time from inside the residence. Within seconds of those shots being fired, an individual appeared in the living room moving towards the front doorway. Based on the quick movement of the individual, a deputy positioned in the front yard thought he was the suspect trying to seek a position inside the front of the home to assault other deputies located outside the window. Believing he was an immediate threat to his partners, the deputy fired twice, striking the man, who fell to the floor just inside the front door. Tragically, it was Mr. Mendoza.”

Scott continued, “As the tense situation continued for more than an 8-hour period, with a standoff, the situation deteriorated in the early morning hours of Saturday, with additional shots being fired by the suspect. Fearing for the safety of the female hostage, a special weapons team made entry into the home. The suspect engaged deputies with a handgun and was killed. Mrs. Mendoza, trapped inside the residence, was rescued unharmed.”

Accused of negligence for abandoning Mendoza’s family prior to the fatal shootings and for failing to evacuate the family from an active crime scene, the sheriff’s deputies were named in a lawsuit against the county for killing an innocent man attempting to protect his family. While fleeing with his children, Mendoza was shot in the leg and forehead by a sheriff’s deputy.

Employed by Unified Grocers, Inc. for 30 years, Mendoza was scheduled to retire in 3 months and had planned to spend more time with his family.

“He was looking for those years with his grandchildren and his children, looking forward to it, and it was all taken away because of poor tactics and poor training on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department and the deputies involved,” family attorney Garo Mardirossian told KTLA on Monday.

“The officer is still on the force,” he added. “We are hoping that better training, better tactics would be instituted within our law enforcement community so that this type of tragedy does not happen again; so it doesn’t repeat itself.”

During a press conference on Monday, Mardirossian announced that Los Angeles County had agreed to settle the lawsuit by awarding $14.35 million to the Mendoza family.

“To be honest, the money is not a big deal to me,” Mendoza Jr. said. “I would rather have my father around.”

In a recent press release, the LASD stated: “We offer our deepest condolences to the Mendoza family. This was an extremely dynamic and tragic incident that occurred on August 1, 2014. Deputies were forced to make a split-second decision as an armed suspect willingly fired upon deputies multiple times, putting innocent lives at risk and taking a family hostage in their home. The outcome was the rescue of that hostage, but also the heartbreaking death of an innocent man. We are always striving to improve how we handle split-second life and death situations in an effort to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.”

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