Up until now, there was, for many, a glaring hole in California laws concerning police violence. From time to time, law enforcement officials take an innocent person’s life without any kind of justification. As of October 6, 2014, however, the families of the victims of unjustified police violence can sue, not only for their monetary losses, but also for pain and suffering incurred by the original victim. Now, cases like this that see the inside of a California federal courtroom will likely include a pain and suffering component.
The case that began the road to this switch is that of an autistic young man (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) who was gunned down by Los Angeles police in 2008. His family knew he was apt to wandering off without supervision, but were not aware that he was out and about this particular night. It seems that he, not remembering how to get home, had found a warm nook in the front of an apartment complex to sleep in. LAPD officers believed him to be under the influence of drugs, so they shook him awake and asked him to show them his ID, which he did.
After that, testimony concerning what happened gets a little shaky. The police say that hen had a knife and was going to hurt the officer asking for his identification; others say that he had no weapons at all, the knife found at the scene was police issue and had none of his DNA on it. Thinking his life to be in danger, the officer testified that he shot him 3 times at close range, ending the boy’s life. However, ballistics reports determined that he was shot in such a way that he was turning away and down from the bullets. To make matters worse, the coroner’s office in charge of his body lost the boy’s remains for a period of about 3 weeks, making it impossible for his parents to bury them according to their particular customs and beliefs. Now, they are somewhat comforted by the fact that their son’s case has created a change in the law so that families and individuals who are taken advantage of by the police or who are the victims of police cover-ups can find justice.