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Family to sue CHP in toy-gun death

June 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Family members remember a woman shot to death by California Highway Patrol officers. The family denies she was waving a gun at officers when she was pulled over. California Highway Patrol officers face a lawsuit. Last week, officers shot and killed a woman in Alhambra. They say she pointed a gun at them. It turned out to be a replica. Her family is planning to sue.

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The gun was a very realistic-looking replica, complete with moving parts.

The officer who fired told investigators he feared for his safety, but the attorney representing the victim's family questions the officer's account, calling the shooting an "execution."

Family members say Ilda Grasso had everything to live for, and say they can't believe the mother of two and grandmother of five would have had a replica gun in her possession, much less pointed it at police.

"It's very difficult, and we still don't know how to explain to our kids why grandma's no longer with us," said Marcelo Grass, Ilda's son.

The 52-year-old was shot and killed by a CHP officer last week in Alhambra for allegedly waving a toy gun at authorities.

"This replica is virtually indistinguishable from a regular firearm," said Lt. David Dolson, L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. "It shares all the same characteristics of a regular-looking deadly gun."

Grasso's family says the officer's account doesn't add up. They are filing a federal lawsuit against the CHP.

"It's physically and forensically impossible for her to have had a fake or toy gun in her hand at the time that that bullet pierces her heart through the seatbelt harness. It's not possible," said Brian Claypool, Grasso family attorney.

Claypool said Grasso was shot as she was leaning over in her car reaching for her identification, not for the gun, as police claim.

"We don't believe that she had this toy gun in her car at the time," said Claypool. "If the police officers truly found a toy gun in the car, it probably came from one of her grandkids."

The Grasso family is seeking $15 million in damages. They say financial recourse is the only way to ensure the CHP is held accountable.

 

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