Unarmed robbery suspect shot by Culver City police. Minor children awarded $8.8 million. Los Angeles County.

Summary

An unarmed robbery suspect is shot by a Culver City police officer.  Other officers on the scene did not perceive the suspect as a threat. $8.8 million awarded by Federal jury.  

The Case

  • Case Name: Kandace Simplis, et al. v. Culver City Police Department, et al
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court/ CV 10-­‐9497-­‐MWF (MANx)
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
  • Type of Action: Civil Rights, Excessive Force, Police Shooting, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Michael Fitzgerald
  • Plaintiffs:
    Kandace Simplis (mother of one of the decedent's children), and four minor children of decedent
  • Defendants:
    Culver City Police Department, Officer Luis Martinez
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $8,825,000
  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $2,000,000 in past and future non-­economic damages for each  of the four children.

    $825,000 in survivorship damages for the decedent.

  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2.5 hours
  • Jury Polls: Unanimous in favor of Plaintiff.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP by Matthew McNicholas, Los Angeles
    Law Offices of Dale Galipo by Dale Galipo, Woodland HIlls
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Carpenter, Rothans & Dumont by Steven Rothans and Jill Williams, Los Angeles

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Roger Clark, police procedures, Santee
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Clarence Chapman, police procedure, Santa Monica

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On April 25, 2010, plaintiffs' decedent, LeJoy Grissom, 27, was the passenger in a green Sebring vehicle stopped by Culver City Police for suspicion of armed robbery of an electronics store. Once out of the vehicle, he was shot and killed by police gunfire.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs alleged the deadly force was excessive and unnecessary. During the felony traffic stop, five separate officers were set up in positions of advantage with weapons drawn and trained on the vehicle's occupants. Mr. Grissom was ordered to open the passenger door and exit, which he did. Once he was out of the vehicle, he was shot and killed with a single trigger‐pull of an MP5 submachine gun, which released a 3-round burst of bullets. The bullets struck center mass, killing Mr. Grissom.

    The shooting officer, Luis Martinez, testified that the passenger exited the vehicle and faced away from the officers in a westerly direction for 20 - 30 seconds, then spun rapidly to his right to face officers, with his right hand cupped, dropping his right hand, and that something shiny and silver was in his hand. The shooter testified this "was the first immediate threat of death or serious injury,"and that is why he decided to shoot. The other four officers participating in the felony stop testified that the male passenger had immediately faced them in an easterly direction; his hands were up and palms open and flat, and that nothing was in his hands. They also testified that his hands lowered somewhat on one or two occasions, but that when he was ordered to put them back up, he complied. They also testified that they could see his hands and see they were empty. Further, they affirmatively testified the suspect never faced away for 20 - 30 seconds, did not have his right hand cupped, and that they never saw anything in his hand.

    At the time of the shooting, 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday, Officer Martinez was at the end of a double shift that began the night before at 7:00 p.m., and had been awake for at least 18.5 hours. Further, in the 42 hours immediately before the shooting, Martinez had only slept for 8 total hours, having worked Friday night as well. Based on this testimony, plaintiffs argued that the "first immediate threat" of "facing away, then spinning rapidly to his right with something shiny and silver in his hand" never occurred, making the force unnecessary. None of the other officers fired shots. No gun was recovered at the scene. Nothing shiny or silver was recovered at the scene.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That Officer Martinez did not use excessive force.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $800,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $300,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiffs' attorney Dale Galipo told the Los Angeles Times that he had worried the jury would be swayed by Grissom's criminal life and the danger the officers may have believed themselves to be in when they pulled him over. Galipo said that at the time of the stop, police were aware Grissom was suspected of committing a rash of armed robberies. Attorney McNicholas said it was later determined that Grissom did, in fact, rob the electronics store that day.

Case was filed on November 18, 2010 in state court – removed to federal court on December 10, 2010.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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