$1.5 million to go to the mother of boy killed by LAPD officer

Richard Winton, Times Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
All Rights Reserved

The city of Los Angeles has reached a tentative financial settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit over the police killing of 13-year-old Devin Brown.

Officials declined to disclose the sum that would go to Brown's mother, Evelyn Davis, but three sources familiar with the case said it was at least $1.5 million.

Officer Steven Garcia shot Brown on Feb. 6, 2005, in South Los Angeles, as the boy backed a stolen Toyota Camry toward a police car about 4 a.m. at the end of a brief car chase. Police said that Brown was driving erratically and that they suspected him of drunk driving. Garcia fired 10 shots, hitting the youth seven times.

The shooting inflamed political and racial tensions. Garcia is Latino and Brown was African American.

The death also led to significant policy changes in the Los Angeles Police Department, including restrictions on officers shooting at moving cars.

The settlement was reached Tuesday as attorneys prepared for an April 24 trial date, court records show. The City Council is scheduled to consider approving the settlement July 1.

Brian Dunn, the Brown family attorney, declined to comment, citing a gag order. The city attorney's office would not comment either.

The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled in February that Garcia violated departmental rules and should face possible discipline for the shooting. Investigators estimated that Brown was driving 10 to 12 mph when he scraped the passenger side of Garcia's cruiser, and 2 mph or less when the officer, who had scrambled out of the way of the car, opened fire.

When he fired, Garcia was standing to the side of the car and not in its path, the commission found.

Police Chief William J. Bratton had come to the opposite conclusion, saying Brown's vehicle threatened Garcia's life. Prosecutors also rejected criminal charges, citing self-defense.

The Brown family lawsuit said Garcia was never in danger, and it alleged negligence in the city's hiring, training and supervision of the officer.

After the teenager's death, the Police Commission imposed restrictions on shooting at moving vehicles. Officers must first try to get out of the way of the vehicle. If that proves impossible, or if there is another deadly threat -- a gun -- they may shoot.

Almost a year before Brown died, the department had begun reviewing the shooting policy, after officers killed a gas station holdup suspect who slowly drove toward them in reverse.

A departmental panel, known as a Board of Rights, will decide this summer what, if any, discipline Garcia will receive, police officials said.

The decision that Garcia's action was outside departmental policy was made by the new Police Commission selected by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and headed by former Urban League President John Mack.

Before his appointment, Mack was one of the fiercest critics of the Brown killing.

The decision to refer Garcia for possible sanctions enraged police union leaders but was praised by activists, who said the new board was exerting a higher level of civilian oversight than ever before. 
April 13, 2006

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