Anaheim and Its Mayor React to Jury Clearing Cop Nick Bennallack in Manuel Diaz's Killing
See the update on Page 2 on the statements from Anaheim and its mayor hoping to quell another civil disturbance.
Manuel Diaz, R.I.P.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 6, 12:30 P.M.: A federal jury in Santa Ana today rejected a $5 million claim from the mother of Manuel Diaz, who at 25 was gunned down by an Anaheim police officer a day before a second Anaheim cop fatally shot 22-year-old Joel Acevedo, sparking the fierce local street riots of July 2012.
The jury--four Caucasians, three Latinos and one Asian obviously late for lunch dates--deliberated for only two freakin' hours before giving grieving mother Genevieve Huizar's wrongful death and violated civil rights suit the heave-ho.
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Huizar's attorney Dale Galipo had told jurors Diaz was unarmed and not wanted for any crime when he exercised his constitutional rights to move away from Anaheim officers on July 21, 2012. Twenty seconds later, Officer Nick Bennallack decided without warning to kill Diaz with shots from a semi-automatic Glock that struck the young man's buttock and back of the head.
(Naturally, Bennallack was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which extended the same courtesy to Acevedo's killer, Officer Kelly Phillips.)
The defense of Bennallack by Steven Rothans, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who specializes in defending law enforcement agencies and cops in police brutality cases, came down to this: because the officer could not tell whether Diaz had a gun on him (he didn't), it must be assumed the perp had one and the threat must be eliminated--a threat that did not exist, mind you.
With vigor, Rothans also painted Diaz as Anaheim's Public Enemy No. 1, which brings us to the appeal of the verdict Galipo vowed to file. He blames U.S. District Court Judge James Selna for allowing incriminating evidence that improperly influenced jurors against the dead man.
"He let in evidence that the officer was unaware of at the time," Galipo told City News Service of the veteran judge,"that the decedent had methamphetamine in his system and was a member of a gang, and there were photographs found on the decedent's phone with the decedent posing with a gun in his hand."
Galipo continued, "I think once the jury was looking at all that negative evidence, even though the shooting was unjustified, they gave the officer the benefit of a doubt." The plaintiff attorney added he was "disappointed" in the verdict "but not surprised."
UPDATE, MARCH 6, 2:48 P.M.: Obviously hoping to quell a possible civil disturbance in the wake of the jury's verdict in the Manuel Diaz lawsuit, the city of Anaheim and Mayor Tom Tait issued the following statements this afternoon:
"2012 was a difficult year, yet we saw people come together to support a grieving neighborhood. That same generous spirit will carry Anaheim through today, tomorrow and for years to come. Anaheim remains committed to ensure safe and peaceful neighborhoods for all."
"Today is not an easy day. There are no victors. Regardless of the court's decision, a man lost his life. My heart goes out to Ms. Huizar and her family for their loss. As a city we will move forward with a spirit of healing and compassion."
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