Fresno settles police shooting lawsuit for $2.2 million

Pablo Lopez, Fresno Bee, November 22, 2016
The city of Fresno has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the parents of a Fresno man who was fatally shot by police four years ago. With the settlement comes major changes for the Fresno Police Department, said Oakland attorneys Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin, who represented the parents of Jaime Reyes Jr., 28, who was shot while climbing a fence at Aynesworth Elementary School in southeast Fresno in the afternoon of June 6, 2012. Haddad said Tuesday that if the lawsuit had gone to trial, the evidence would have shown that Officer Juan Avila shot Reyes near the top of the fence. Once Reyes toppled to the ground, Avila shot him three more times in the back as he lay wounded, face down on the ground, Haddad said. In the settlement, the city does not admit to any wrongdoing by its officers. The suit was filed seeking unspecified damages. ... City officials agreed to the settlement on Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court in Fresno. As part of the settlement, Haddad said the Fresno Police Department has agreed to change its use-of-force policy. Before, officers could shoot a suspect if he posed an imminent threat. Fresno police have a unique interpretation of what imminent threat means, Haddad said. To police, it means a pending threat or a threat in the near future, Haddad said. The settlement mandates that Fresno police are only allowed to shoot a suspect if the suspect poses an immediate threat, or a threat at this very moment, Haddad said. Sergeants and patrol officers also will be trained to assess every shot, Haddad said. This way, an officer doesnt fire extra bullets when the situation doesnt warrant it, Haddad said, noting that Reyes was incapacitated with the first shot, therefore he didnt need to be shot three more times in the back. In addition, the settlement requires additional training for homicide detectives and the police Internal Affairs officers. The training will require them to consider statements by witnesses that contradict statements by officers at the scene. In the Reyes shooting, a female witness said she saw an execution, Haddad said. But homicide detectives and Internal Affairs officers disregarded her statement, Haddad said. Were hopeful that these policy changes could prevent some future shootings by police, he said.

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