Long Beach Officer Sued for Killing Student

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — Parents of a 20-year-old student who was shot to death by a Long Beach police officer have followed up a state court lawsuit for wrongful death with a second claim in Federal Court.
     Feras Morad of Woodland Hills was shot multiple times by Long Beach police Officer Matthew Hernandez on the evening of May 27, 2015 in the Circle neighborhood of Long Beach. Morad had fallen from the second floor an apartment building into an alley on East 15th Street, according to the Sept. 9 lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court.
     Morad was bloodied and badly injured in the fall. Hernandez approached Morad in the alley by himself in responding to a dispatch call rather than waiting for backup, Morad’s mother Amal Alkabra and father Amr Morad say in the complaint.
     The young man, clearly disoriented from his injuries, was not aggressive and posed no threat, his parents say. The neighborhood, a haven for families and students, is a low-crime area, the complaint adds, and firefighters and paramedics were on hand to provide assistance to the officer if he needed it.
     Morad had an unblemished record and no history of entanglements with law enforcement, his parents say.
     Hernandez tried to arrest Morad by himself, the family says, growing frustrated when the wounded Morad was unable to follow his commands to stay on the ground. He Tasered the young man and then shot him five times, including two bullets at point-blank range in his chest, the family says.
     As Hernandez drew his gun, bystanders yelled, “Don’t shoot!” and “He’s not armed,” according to the lawsuit.
     Morad’s cousin Kareem Morad told the Los Angeles Times in 2015 that Morad was suffering a bad reaction to hallucinogenic mushrooms.
     “He needed help, and he didn’t get the help he needed,” Kareem Morad told the Times for its July 22, 2015 story.
     Morad, described in the filing as a “stellar student,” was a runner-up in a national debate contest the week before he was killed.
     On the night of his death, he had been studying at the apartment building with his friends and members of the debate team. He had accepted an offer to study at California State University Long Beach and was due to begin classes in the fall of 2015.
     Citing press reports, the family says Officer Hernandez was placed on paid administrative leave.
     In an interview, the family’s attorney Joshua Piovia-Scott said that as far as he knew Hernandez has not been punished.
     “He continues to be a member of the Long Beach police department and interact with members of the community on that basis,” Piovia-Scott said.
     The attorney, who said the family’s state court lawsuit is still pending, said three members of the Long Beach Fire Department had offered to help the officer and treat Morad’s injuries.
     A Long Beach police report is under wraps because of a protective order in state court. But Piovia-Scott said that depositions with the three members of the fire department suggest there was no need for deadly force.
     “The City of Long Beach has a pretty egregious record of unnecessary shooting and killing of civilians by their police force,” Piovia-Scott said. “I’m not engaging in hyperbole when I say this is the most egregious police shooting that I have ever seen and been involved in.”
     On April 23, 2015, a Long Beach police officer killed 19-year-old Hector Morejon, and in April 2014 Jason Conoscenti was shot by Long Beach officers as he ran down a staircase and away from a police dog, according to the new lawsuit.
     The Conoscenti and Morejon families reached settlements totaling $3.5 million with the city after they filed wrongful death lawsuits.
     “Hernandez’s actions, and those of defendant City of Long Beach, have devastated Morad’s family and left an entire community questioning the actions of a department whose cavalier attitude toward officer-involved shootings has become a troubling pattern,” the Morad family says.
     They seek a jury trial and punitive damages for excessive force, failure to provide medical care and denial of due process. They are represented by Mohammad Tajsar with Hadsell Stormer & Renick, in Pasadena.
     The Long Beach Police Department said it could not comment on pending litigation and referred Courthouse News to the City Attorney’s Office.
     Assistant City Attorney Monte Machit said in an email: “This office maintains that Officer Hernandez’s actions were justified by the threat he encountered, and were reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances. This office will continue to vigorously defend the city and the city’s police department.”

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