By Joel Rubin
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — A woman suffered serious injuries when she was ejected from a moving LAPD patrol car earlier this year, according to court papers and interviews.
It remains unclear how the woman fell out of the patrol car and how fast it was going.
She is now suing the department, and her attorney on Monday allowed The Times to review video footage of parts of the incident that he said came from a security camera on a nearby building.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said it was not immediately known whether an internal investigation had been opened into what happened. If one has not, he said, one now would be opened based on the woman's allegations and the video.
The rear doors of patrol cars, Smith said, are equipped with locks that officers are supposed to engage when transporting a suspect.
The incident occurred early March 17, after a night in Koreatown, when Kim Nguyen, 28, and two friends were waiting in a restaurant parking lot for a designated driver to pick them up, Nguyen said in an interview with The Times.
A pair of LAPD officers drove by in a marked patrol car, stopped and approached Nguyen, she said. After briefly questioning her and her two male friends, the officers left, but circled back as Nguyen ran across the street toward a cafe.
Nguyen, who said she was a student at Loyola Marymount University at the time, was handcuffed and placed in the back of the patrol car, according to her and her attorney, Arnoldo Casillas. One of the officers told her that she was being taken into custody on suspicion of public intoxication, Nguyen recalled.
Nguyen said that she heard her friends asking the officers where she was being taken, but that the officers would not disclose which station or jail facility they were taking her to.
Video footage that Casillas said he obtained from a security camera on a nearby building captured the patrol vehicle as it headed east along Olympic Boulevard and finally approached Grand Avenue at 3:08 a.m. Casillas provided a copy of the footage to The Times.
Moments later, the surveillance camera pans a few feet and shows Nguyen lying on her back in the street, with what appears to be blood visible on her face.
Nguyen claimed that she had remained handcuffed while in the back of the patrol car. From the video, it is difficult to tell whether she is handcuffed, although one of her arms appears to be pinned behind her back as she lies in the street.
The video also shows an officer in a second LAPD vehicle arriving and stopping at the intersection for about 30 seconds before the patrol car carrying Nguyen comes into the frame.
The two officers transporting her and the officer in the second vehicle stand around Nguyen, who appears to be unconscious, and at one point one of them crouches down to examine her. After a few minutes, the video shows her regaining consciousness and writhing around slightly.
One of the officers tries to move Nguyen in an apparent effort to turn her onto her side. Paramedics arrive soon after.
Nguyen said she does not remember falling out of the patrol car, but said she did not try to open the door. Reaching for the door, she said, would have been impossible because she was handcuffed.
In a lawsuit filed by Nguyen, the officers are identified by their last names and first initials.
Department records show two officers assigned to the division that patrols Koreatown match the names. They are David Shin, who joined the force in 2010, and Jin Oh, who has been an officer since 2008.
The officers could not be reached for comment.
Nguyen said her jaw was shattered and that she suffered bleeding on her brain. To perform the first of three surgeries on her jaw, doctors kept Nguyen heavily sedated for several days, she said. She also lost several teeth.
In a report on the incident reviewed by The Times, paramedics who treated Nguyen wrote that the officers told them the car had come to a stop at the intersection and Nguyen fell out of as the driver accelerated to about 10 mph.
The video, however, shows the patrol car traveling at what appears to be a much faster speed and passing through the intersection without stopping or slowing.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Los Angeles Times