MARCH 9, 2007  

Settlement Divides $1 Million Between Parents of Man Killed

By Alexa Hyland
Daily Journal Staff Writer

      LOS ANGELES - The parents of a 22-year-old man who was fatally shot by police will divide $1 million, under a settlement reached with the city of Fontana, where the shooting occurred.
      The settlement stems from the shooting of Randy Perchez near the home of his mother, Catherine Olivas, when police were patrolling the area for suspected gang activity.
      In the settlement, Olivas will receive $825,000, and Perchez's father, Randy Perchez Sr., will get $175,000.
 Olivas v. City of Fontana, CV05-34 (C.D. Cal., filed Jan. 12, 2005).
      Pasadena-based plaintiffs' attorney John C. Burton, who represented Olivas in the suit, said it was unusual that the parents of the victim had separate attorneys.
      "We were unable to decide how the money should be allocated between our two camps," he said.
      He said they eventually agreed that Olivas would receive the majority of the money because Perchez was living with her at the time of the shooting.
      Stanley Rozanski and Matthew Surlin of Rozanski & Associates in Los Angeles represented Perchez Sr.
      Federal Magistrate Judge Oswald Parada, who divided the funds between Olivas and Perchez Sr., also granted the plaintiffs' attorneys' request for $250,000 in legal expenses.
      Insurers will pay the settlement.
      Before agreeing to the February settlement, the city of Fontana and the Fontana Police Department tried to have the case thrown out through summary judgment. They objected to the claims that the death deprived the parents of a familial relationship, that the city was liable because it condoned police Officer Richard Guerrero's use of force and failed to discipline him, and that the shooting resulted in a wrongful death.
      U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson granted summary judgment on the city's familial-relationship claim but denied the motions to absolve the city from liability for a wrongful death and for its lack of discipline of the officer.
      Outside counsel Shelton Harrell of Lynberg & Watkins in Orange represented Fontana.
      The shooting occurred in February 2004, according to court records based on police reports.
      Guerrero, who was part of a patrol checking the area for reported gang activity, shot Perchez after a chase and scuffle, according to the court records. Police say Perchez and a friend fled from Olivas' home after officers entered the residence looking for gang members who had been outside. Perchez was shot when he refused to stay prone on the ground and when he grabbed for Guerrero's flashlight, police say.
      A witness quoted by Burton in Olivas' suit said Perchez went for Guerrero's flashlight because Perchez was unable to breathe when the officer used the flashlight to apply a choke hold.
      The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department investigated the shooting and expressed concerns about the incident but concluded it was justified. The district attorney's office did not prosecute Guerrero, but refused to classify the shooting as justified.
      "This is one I really felt they should have prosecuted," Burton said. "[Perchez] was dressed in slacks and a tank top - he's 5 feet 3 inches and 123 pounds. He wasn't armed."
      The settlement comes at a time when critics are questioning the lack of prosecution of officer-involved shootings. Since 2000, the San Bernardino district attorney's office has found four of 127 investigated officer-involved shootings unjustified.


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