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$5.5 Million Verdict Against LAPD for Taser Death of Former Marine

by Derek Gilna

The City of Los Angeles has beenhit with a $5.5 million jury verdict in November of 2017 for the death of a former Marine who was Tased six times in a row by the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) while they were attempting to restrain him. Michael Frederick Mears, who was 39 and suffered from myriad physical and mental health issues after he left the military, died in 2014 of cardiac arrest about an hour after he was beaten with batons and fists, pepper sprayed, restrained, and tased on Christmas Eve.            

According to Mears family attorney Dale Galipo, “This is one of the largest wrongful death civil rights verdicts ever.” Galipo said that Mears was acting erratically, so his roommate, fearing for Mears’ safety, called paramedics for assistance. They in turn called the LAPD for assistance when he became delusional and uncooperative. However, in a scenario that unfortunately has become all too common in recent months, when police respond to a call for assistance with someone in a clear mental health emergency, the citizen loses his life due to excessive force.

The coroner concluded that Mears, who suffered from an enlarged heart, died of ventricular dysrhythmia, cocaine addiction, “and police restraint with use of Taser.”           The complaint also alleged that, “Rather than act reasonably by responding to the call in a manner conducive to assisting someone who is mentally ill,” the officers treated Mears “as if he had committed a crime.” The jury agreed, finding that the police used “excessive and unreasonable force in violation of the 4th Amendment,” and that the LAPD’s “negligent” actions caused his injury and death.

According to the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research resource for police forces setting their policies and procedures, “Police should consider that exposure to the [Taser] for longer than 15 seconds ... may increase the risk of death or serious injury.” The LAPD in this instance used it six times over a period of three minutes, including one deployment that lasted 32 seconds.

The jury also concluded that the LAPD provided inadequate training on the proper use of Tasers, which contributed to Mears’ death.

Galipo stated that the jury’s verdict was “the right and courageous decision.” He added optimistically, “we believe this decision will save lives.” 



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