Suit Tossed Over Fatally Shot Unarmed Teen

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles police officers are not liable for fatally shooting a 19-year-old armed only with a cellphone after a high-speed chase, a federal judge ruled.
     Abdul Arian had drawn the attention of police after he ran a red light on April 11, 2012. During the ensuing high-speed chase, Arian allegedly told a 911 operator there was “something” in his trunk, the court’s Tuesday order stated.
     After the LAPD finally immobilized Arian’s car on the 101 freeway in Woodland Hills, Arian emerged from his car, pointing his cellphone at the officers. Officers shot at him, but Arian appeared unaffected, ran a bit away and again pointed his phone at them. The second volley of shots killed Arian.
     The LAPD later represented that Arian told the operator during the chase that he had a gun and was prepared to use it. No weapon was found in the trunk or car.
     His family’s June 2012 complaint claimed that he was not intoxicated, and alleged that officers shot at the unarmed 19-year-old roughly 120 to 150 times.
     “By the time Arian fell to the ground, at least three officers had emptied their 16-round magazines,” U.S. District Judge Gary Klasuner wrote.
     Klausner nevertheless granted the city summary judgment Tuesday, finding that the shooting was justified because it was reasonable for officers to believe that Arian was holding a gun, instead of his cellphone.
     “The record contains video footage from three different news sources, all of which capture Arian’s position and stance with respect to officers and others,” the five-page order states. “The video footage shows that Arian turned towards officers on three separate occasions and extended his arms outward towards them. … In each instance, Arian held a small, dark object in his hands and pointed it in the direction of officers. … Based on this footage, the court determines that no reasonable juror could find that Arian’s stance did not resemble that of an individual preparing to fire a gun.”
     Arian’s family argued that one of the officers could not tell what Arian was holding without eye glasses. Finding that was not a “triable issue,” however, Klausner said the family failed to show that the officer in question was the first to fire shots at Arian.
     Klausner rejected the contention that Arian was holding his cellphone in a way that indicated that he was videoing the officers, and added that the officers did not have to warn Arian before firing rounds at him.
     “Here, the undisputed evidence shows that Arian, in the process of fleeing from officers, took a shooting stance and pointed his cell phone at officers three times in a span of only 19 seconds,” the opinion states. “Even if the court assumed that warnings were practicable under these circumstances, the additional undisputed facts going to the reasonableness of officers’ actions weigh substantially in favor of officers, such that the extent to which officers issued warnings is immaterial.”
     Granting qualified immunity to the officers, Klausner found that the family’s Monell claim against the city failed, and concluded that Los Angeles is shielded from claims for wrongful death, negligence and battery.
     While city attorney Carmen Trutanich welcomed the decision, he called the episode “a tragedy for the Arian Family and the Los Angeles Police Department.”
     “Too often our police officers must defend themselves in the face of grave threats, perceived or otherwise, and in this case tragic as it may have been, their defense was justified,” Trutanich said.
     Though Arian’s family initially demanded $120 million in damages, its most recent demand was for $25 million, the city attorney said.

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