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Family Challenges Police Officer Immunity for Son's Fatal Shooting

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on November 09, 2015 8:18 AM

A family whose son was fatally shot by police after a high-speed chase in 2012 is asking an appellate court to let their civil rights suit go to trial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California last week heard arguments from Abdul Arian's parents that a finding of immunity for the police officers who shot their son should be reversed, Courthouse News Service reported last week.

Los Angeles Police Department officers shot the 19-year-old man in 2012 after he ran several red lights and told a 911 dispatcher on the phone that he was armed and would use his weapon. The family claims that Arian was shot over 100 times when he exited the car holding a phone believed to be a weapon. Police say they fired closer to only 90 rounds.

Vision Issues?

"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 in a 2013 order. Relying on video evidence, the judge found it reasonable for the officers to believe that Arian was holding a gun and granted them immunity. No gun was ever found in the car.

Arian's family argues that the young man was shot because one of the officers was not wearing glasses and could not see properly. The family's lawyer Kenneth Stern urged the court to reverse the immunity order so that the civil suit can proceed with a jury trial. "In this case my clients' son is dead today because an officer was too vain to wear his eyeglasses as he had been told twice by a doctor," Stern said.

The Ninth Circuit panel reportedly appeared unmoved by these claims. Judges noted that there were several LAPD officers on the scene and that many shots were fired simultaneously.

Deputy City Attorney Kevin Bock acknowledged that the case was sad but pointed out that the facts must be considered from the police officers' perspective, not retrospectively, knowing that there was no gun. "You don't look at it through what actually happened or what Mr. Arian was intending. You look at it through the prism of a reasonable police officer that was on that scene in that chaotic night in question."

The Civil Suit

The Arian family initially sought $125 million in damages in a civil suit. They then lowered the demand to $25 million but a finding of immunity for the officers has barred the family from taking the case to trial. "Hopefully my clients will get their day in court, in front of a jury," their attorney said.

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