May 26, 2013.
On that fateful Friday, Christian Eaddy, 26, got into a confrontation with the LAPD. Officers Christopher Carr and Fernando Avila were responding to a 911 call from the Eaddy family about a man in Pacoima threatening to kill himself, and having knives and syringes.
When they came upon Christian in the driveway of the family home, the officers did not know the young African American male had been hit by a car when he was four, and spent a week in a coma. Or that the resulting accident would cause him developmental issues the rest of his life.
But they should have suspected something was different about Christian. There should have been something, either from their training or instincts, that would suggest this confrontation might be resolved without deadly force.
But that’s not what happened. Christian was eventually tasered, and then shot. He died four hours later.
Christian’s father Greg Eaddy firmly believed his son — his only child — did not have to die that day. A belief reinforced after hearing initial reports that, in his estimation, shined a negative light on Christian.
“When I heard of the story on the news, I thought ‘that was my son and it’s not gonna get swept under the rug like this,’” Greg said. “The usual ‘I feared for my life and we shot him.’ It’s a pattern and I was not gonna be a victim of this pattern of the LAPD, and how they explain things.”
Greg Eaddy filed a lawsuit against the LAPD. Two weeks ago, on Aug. 2, a jury said the LAPD was “65 percent” negligent in the death of Christian. It also found that Christian’s civil rights had been violated. Greg was initially awarded $2.2 million. The final figure could be reduced to $1.43 million. A judge still has to sign off on the award amount.
Today, Aug. 15, Greg is sitting in the Los Angeles office of his attorney, Robert Brown. He looks a bit wary, perhaps wondering how much he should reveal about himself and Christian to someone he just met.
“I thank the jury and judicial system for actually coming with this verdict,” Greg said. “However, when it comes to your son or your family, once they are missing —- there were plans you had for the future, your son growing up and having a family, seeing what kind of man he was going to be — although there’s a judgement and I’m thankful, that can never take the place of your son.”
But Greg, 60, who works as a real estate fraud investigator, knows the story of Christian’s life and his death needs to be told again and again.
“He was a wonderful son. He gave his heart to everybody he knew. If he could help someone in whatever capacity it was, he was willing to do it,” Greg said.
“He was a wonderful soul and I’m not saying that because he was my son or because of the case. He was a wonderful, gregarious person. He loved life, he loved people. He was better than me in life.”
Brown also knew Christian — they both attended the Church of Christ in Reseda. He wanted to take the case even though, he admitted, “the odds are always very long” in lawsuits against police.
“You never know what a jury is going to do, how they perceive the case,” said Brown, who previously worked as a Los Angeles city attorney before going into private practice. “All you can control is your presentation of the facts. They interpret them. You can’t know [the decision] until the verdict arrives.”
But Greg also believed something positive would happen.
“I had a good feeling because I am a Christian, and I do believe in God,” he said. “I leave everything in his hands. Basically, deep down inside I knew that we would get the verdict. From what I understood about the case, I’m not gonna say it was a slam dunk or anything like that. But it does seem there was obviously a lot of negligence on the officer’s part. I’m not a police officer, or anything like that, but common sense just from the facts that I was exposed to…I felt they would rule in our favor.
“If I thought my son was wrong in any way, it would have been sad but I would have just had to accept that he was wrong and made a mistake, and he paid with his life for it. It would have been sad, it would have been hurtful. But I would have had to realize that, that’s life. You have to pay for your mistakes, one way or another.”
The deaths of African American males at the hands of police — armed and unarmed — has exploded into the national conscience the past several years. The names and deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Christian Taylor, Eric Harris, Philando Castile and, most recently, Sylville K. Smith, resonate angrily in black communities coast to coast and have sparked movements like Black Lives Matter that protest such treatment and demand change.
And now police find themselves under fire, literally. This year officers have been ambushed and killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., in retaliation.
There is seemingly no exit from the circle of madness US society finds itself in.
Greg emphatically makes the point that he does not hate police. “Technically, because my job is real estate enforcement, I work with a lot of police officers and district attorneys. The vast majority of the people I work with are overwhelmingly good and they appear to have a genuine care for the community, and are about change,” he said.
“As far as it goes with my son, I don’t know what was in the officer’s head when he [shot Christian]. But to me, it was gross negligence. Like I said, I know an overwhelmingly good amount of law enforcement officers, and generally they do a good job. But you have people that are either not trained well enough, or they don’t abide by the rules. That overshadows the good officers or the people in law enforcement that are really trying to make a difference in serving the people.”
It’s possible Greg may be sought by organizations and movements like Black Lives Matter to share his story and Christian’s story. Public speaking and appearances do not come easily to him. But, he said, he cannot remain in the shadows if called upon. Because victims of violence must do their part to facilitate change.
“Because of my son, because of the nationwide problem — and I am a victim of this grievous behavior by law enforcement against minorities — it would be my duty,” Greg said. “Just like my duty as an American would be to, if I see someone who needed help walking across the street, I do it. She could be 95 years old and white. It doesn’t matter.
“As a person and as an American, as a Christian, I would help anybody who needed assistance. And in this case, not only for my son, but for future generations, if I can share what happened to me with the knowledge I have, I would be open to that.”
But Greg said he has already accomplished an important goal.
“My main objective [with the lawsuit] was exposure, so people could see. Some people — not all LAPD but a significant amount — have the impression they can kill minorities and suffer little or no consequence. And there’s also been a history through the investigations that they are found justified, although it’s clearly a bad shooting or killing.
“So my main objective, which has been done, is exposure. I’m 60 years old. I’m not gonna live 40 more years…And at this age, I’m not trying to do everything in the world.”