April 15, 2008

Bell Garden's Halloween Shooting Nets Punitive Damages Award Against Police

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Two members of a Bell Gardens family who said police beat them at a Halloween costume party in 2005 have been awarded a $4.5-million civil rights judgment, their attorneys said Monday. Gerardo Cazares, 30, and his father-in-law, Manuel Moreno, 46, had alleged that Bell Gardens officers who responded to a complaint of loud music at the party beat them without provocation, shot them with pepper spray and fired a beanbag gun at such close range that the older man was left with a permanent chest scar. . . . At the conclusion of a federal civil rights trial Friday, jurors ordered the Bell Gardens Police Department and five officers to pay the men $3.2 million in general damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages. . . The city insisted that police officers acted appropriately and that the two men attacked officers.
Officers arrived to find numerous fights going on, the city contended. Cazares, who was dressed as the Grim Reaper, led a large group of partygoers toward Det. Michael Cox and tried to push him out of the party, city attorneys said. A violent struggle erupted between Cazares and Cox, and Moreno struck the detective in the head with a folding metal chair, city lawyers said. Several officers were injured, including Cox, who needed staples for his head wound, the city said. Officers eventually fired a beanbag from a shotgun to stop the fight, city lawyers argued."