Just slightly over two years ago, an LAPD SWAT team tried to rescue an 19-month-old little girl named Suzie Pena, who was with her drunk, drugged out dad in a car dealership while the dad shot (and shot back) at the cops.
After several hours of this, the SWAT team did an entry into the back gate of the dealership, crept through the dealership building itself, sent a “flash-bang” into the tiny interior office where the dad was holed up. They thought the flash-bang would stun him. It didn’t. He shot back. So they blew into the room firing, and killed the crazy, messed-up, murderous dad….and the little girl. She died in her father’s arms.
So now the little girl’s mother, Lorena Lopez, is suing the LAPD for her daughter’s wrongful death and negligence. (I wrote about this case for the Weekly, so in case you’re curious about the back story you can find it here…and here.)
As part of the suit, her attorney, Luis Carrillo is asking for the internal police reports from the department’s investigation into the gun battle. Not surprisingly, the department doesn’t want to fork them over. The Deputy City Attorney, a woman named Kelly Kades, insists that the police officers’ statements are for internal use only and are protected by the right against self-incrimination.
It’s kind of an interesting dilemma. Kades says that, unlike in civilian employment, the department can make officers testify against their wills and so the info that results should be kept confidential.
According to the AP, Carrillo argued that “there is no danger of self-incrimination because the district attorney’s office said in 2006 that none of the 57 officers and supervisors involved in the standoff and shooting would face criminal charges.”
Carrillo says he only wants to compare what the officers involved in the shooting told their supervisors with what they stated in their depositions given for this civil case.
On Tuesday, the judge, who clearly would prefer not to touch this one, ruled that…..somebody else can decide it. He’s ordered the two side to make their respective pitches to an impartial referee who will then advise the judge was to whether he ought to release the documents or not.
Okay, attorneys and arm chair attorneys out there, what do you think the referee will decide?
One thing I’d bet the ranch on: if the cops have to fork over the internal info, the department is toast in terms of this lawsuit. (Not that there was any ill intent. The SWAT guys were devastated by by the outcome.)
They may be toast anyway if Carrillo the attorney can, in any way, accurately reconstruct the way the tiny interior office looked after the shooting.
When I was reporting, I spent a long, long time in that office looking at the walls and at all those bullet holes. (The photo below only shows a small section.) And frankly I still can’t understand how those genuinely good officers could have gone into that little room, guns firing, and imagined the outcome would be any different than the tragic scene that resulted