LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A lawsuit has been filed against the city on behalf of the children of a woman who was accidentally killed by LAPD gunfire while being held hostage by a knife-wielding criminal — one of two civilians killed by misdirected police fire in a six-week period.
“Because of a series of training violations, because of a series of actions which fell completely below the standard of their own training protocols, what we had was the death of a completely innocent person that was totally and utterly preventable,” attorney Brian T. Dunn said Wednesday, as two of the victim’s children stood nearby.
Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday his department is reviewing its “less lethal” weapon options — and its training procedures –following the two civilian deaths. Moore released dramatic body-camera footage of the June shooting in Van Nuys that resulted in the death of a woman who was being held hostage by a knife-wielding man, who also was killed.
He said officers went to a homeless outreach center in the 6400 block of Tyrone Avenue around 1:10 p.m. June 16 in response to a report of a man with a knife assaulting a woman. After a tense standoff, officers fatally shot Guillermo Perez, 32, as he held a large serrated knife to the neck of Elizabeth Tollison, 49, Moore said.
“Tragically, the woman was also struck twice by gunfire,” Moore said. She died at a hospital two days later.
At a news conference at Los Angeles police headquarters, Tuesday Moore discussed the shooting and displayed an edited “critical briefing” video that included footage from officers’ body cameras showing their actions at the shooting scene.
According to Moore, officers had ordered Perez to drop his knife, but he refused, ultimately holding it to Tollison’s neck. An officer had fired a beanbag shotgun during the confrontation, but it failed to stop Perez and the officers fired their handguns as the suspect pressed the knife into his hostage’s neck, Moore said. Eighteen rounds were fired.
Moore said his department is reviewing a new “40mm launcher” that fires a larger and more powerful projectile than the current beanbag shotguns. The weapon is more accurate and effective up to a distance of 100 feet, he said.
The Cochran Firm, founded more than 40 years ago by the late Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., one of the leading “Dream Team” lawyers on the O.J. Simpson defense team, filed the wrongful death, negligence and assault and battery lawsuit against the city on behalf of Tollison’s three adult children. A suit can be filed if the claims are rejected.
About six weeks after the June 16 shooting, LAPD officers exchanged gunfire with a suspect who was fleeing into a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s store on July 21, and the store’s assistant manager was killed. Moore said 27-year-old Melyda Corado was killed by a police bullet. Police body cams showed police fired in the direction of the Trader Joe’s entrance as the suspect ran into the store.
According to the LAPD, two officers — identified as Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans — fired a total of eight shots, one of which struck the suspect, 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins, in the left arm. Another struck Corado, traveling through her arm and into her body, police said.
Atkins surrendered after a roughly three-hour hostage situation at the market. He has been charged with Corado’s murder, under the legal theory that he set the circumstances in motion that ended with her death.
Moore said Tuesday his department is also reviewing any improvements it can make in its “command and control” training and procedures at crime scenes in the aftermath of these and other officer-involved shootings.