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False Arrest and Excessive Force Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Two Men Shot By Police in California

The families of two men fatally shot last year by police officers in the city of Long Beach, California, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers, seeking more than $10 million in damages.

The suit on behalf of the family of John Del Real Jr., 39, contains nine complaints that include allegations of false arrest, battery, excessive force, and unreasonable search and seizure. A complaint has also been filed on behalf of Nye Woods, the son of victim Tyler Damon Woods, 19, and prays for damages for wrongful death, burial and funeral expenses, attorney fees, and more.

The families will be represented by attorneys Dale Galipo and John Fattahi, who previously represented the family of another man killed by police, Douglas Zerby, who was shot in 2010 when police mistakenly thought the water hose nozzle he was holding was a gun.

On September 26, 2013, Del Real was exiting his home at 5:15pm when he was shot by police. Officers claimed the use of force was justified after Del Real began to reach for something in his waistband. An aluminum bat was later found inside his pants by police.

On November 19, Woods was shot while kneeling on a rooftop where he was found after feeling a traffic stop at 2:30am. He was wanted by police in connection with a Los Angeles carjacking. An arrest warrant bearing his name described him as a felon who was armed and dangerous, according to police. He was also a suspect in a recent armed robbery. Shortly after Woods was shot, officers issued a written statement claiming that they discharged their weapons because they believed “the suspect was about to fire at them.” They did not find a weapon on the scene.

The attorneys for the families announced the lawsuit and claim in front of the Long Beach Police Department Headquarters, and claimed that the city “has a particular problem” with shootings involving police officers. About two dozen family members of Del Real and Woods stood beside the attorneys.

Last year, the number of shootings involving police in Long Beach reached 22, including six fatal shootings and five resulting in wounds, as well as several missed shots, shots fired at animals, or weapons discharged accidentally.

Jim McDonnell, the Long Beach Police Chief, has stated previously that each incident undergoes a complete investigation, and he defended the use of force by his officers.

The families’ attorney said that the investigations—in which each incident is investigated by the Long Beach police homicide detail and separately (and independently) by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office—are not sufficient. He said the police officers do not face any “negative ramifications.”

The 2010 Zerby case resulted in a jury finding police officers used excessive force. The family of the victim received $6.5 million in damages, but the city has appealed the verdict.