The fallout from last year’s massive Christopher Dorner manhunt in Southern California continues, as a civilian board announced yesterday that eight Los Angeles police officers violated department policy when they mistakenly riddled a pickup truck with bullets, injuring two women. The women have received a legal settlement of $4.2 million from the city.
Police Chief Charlie Beck at a news conference said he couldn’t disclose what discipline the officers may receive because the information is private under state law.
“These officers will all and have all received extensive training as had the whole Los Angeles Police Department relative to these types of issues,” he said.
The president of the commission, Steve Soboroff, said both Beck and Alex Bustamante, inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Commission, had independently recommended that the shooting be ruled out of policy.
The officers were assigned to non-field duties during an LAPD investigation. The department has a range of punitive measures, including extensive retraining, suspensions, or firings.
The women received $4.2 million to settle the claim, in addition to a separate $40,000 settlement for the loss of their truck.
Their attorney, Glen Jonas, said he was not surprised by the commissioner’s ruling.
“There (are) 4.2 million reasons I have to believe it’s out of policy,” he said. “Anyone with any common sense would agree it’s out of policy.”
The city of Los Angeles last April agreed to pay a total of $4.2 million — $2.1 million each — to the mother and daughter who were hurt when police opened fire on their pickup truck. Police mistook the women’s vehicle for the truck being driven by the fugitive Dorner.
When L.A. officials announced the settlement a year ago, it put an end to one of the more embarrassing episodes during the Dorner manhunt. Observers couldn’t understand how officers could mistake the blue Toyota Tacoma driven by the two women for Dorner’s gray Nissan Titan—and then send a hail of bullets into the truck.
Emma Hernandez, 71, was shot twice in the back and her daughter, Margie Carranza, 47, suffered hand injuries from flying debris. The women were delivering newspapers in the early morning hours in Torrance, Calif., when the officers, who were protecting one of Dorner’s named targets, fired upon them.
During the course of a massive manhunt that upended life in Southern California, law enforcement employed hundreds of officers to search for Dorner and protect the dozens of police officials he named in a long, detailed manifesto on Facebook.
After he killed four people in a vendetta against the LAPD, Dorner died on Feb. 12 in a fiery standoff with police in the mountains above Los Angeles.
“In reaching this settlement, we hope Margie and Emma will be able to move on with their lives, the city will be spared millions of dollars in litigation expense and time, and this unfortunate chapter of the Dorner saga will be put to rest,” Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said in a statement last April.
Jonas told the Los Angeles Times at the time of the settlement that his starting point for the negotiations was $15 million or $16 million. He said he took the $4.2 million to ensure that the women got the money quickly and to avoid the potential risks of going to trial.
“I have a 71-year-old client. You think she wants to risk the appellate court reversing it for one reason or another?” Jonas asked.
Trutanich said the agreement was a “no-brainer, because the costs were going to skyrocket.”
“We got out of this thing pretty cheaply, all things considered,” he said.
“This was a tragic cascade of circumstances that led to an inaccurate conclusion by the officers,” the police chief said yesterday.
In his report to the commission, the chief said he expected that officers “make every effort that they determine that the truck was in fact Dorner’s.”
He wrote, “While there were similarities, the truck that approached was a different make and model, different color, had no ski racks, and no oversized tires.”
“There is no evidence to support that they were holding an object that could be reasonably perceived to be an imminent deadly threat,” Beck wrote in his report, adding that an officer with similar training and experience would not reasonably perceive a deadly threat in the same situation.
“I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force, and the shooting did not meet that standard,” he said Tuesday.
Jonas said the officers fired 103 rounds, and up to 40 of the shots hit the walls, windows and garages of nearby homes.
Hernandez recovered from being shot in the back, except for some slight shoulder problems, but neither woman returned to work, Jonas said, adding that Carranza tried but “it was too traumatic for her.”
“The emotional and mental trauma is still there and they’re still dealing with that,” he said.
“Both of these incidents were tragic for all involved, the officers who were injured in the first incident and the innocent women injured in the incident in the City of Torrance,” Soboroff said in a statement. “As in all use of force incidents, the department has completed a thorough review and will adopt the lessons learned, both good and bad from these incidents.”