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City Council rejects LAPD shooting settlement

April 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The L.A. City Council rejects a $4.5-million settlement with a man who was shot by police and left paralyzed. That decision goes against the advice of the city attorney.

The council thought it was too much money for the man.

Robert Contreras was shot by the LAPD after leaving the scene of a drive-by shooting in 2005.

Contreras, then 19, drove a van from the scene of a drive-by shooting in South Los Angeles. After police began chasing the van, Contreras and two others bailed out of the vehicle and took off on foot about four blocks from the shooting scene.

Officers Julio Benevides and Mario Flores reported seeing Contreras jump out of the van with a gun. They chased him, then fired on the suspect after he turned toward the officers. Contreras was shot first in the ankle and subsequently multiple times in the side and back. He was holding a cell phone, but no gun was found.

After serving time in prison for participating in the 2005 drive-by shooting that resulted in the chase, Contreras filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging the officers violated his civil rights.

His lawyers argued the shooting of Contreras -- who was left paralyzed from the waist down, with limited use of his arms -- was "excessive and unreasonable under the circumstances" and violated his right to a reasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. A jury in February ruled unanimously against the city.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's office negotiated the $4.5 million settlement with Contreras to avoid a potentially much larger fine for damages, a figure that could be as high as $12 million, according to one source.

Contreras' future medical care was estimated at between $4 million and $8 million.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck opposed the settlement.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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