After Huntington Beach police gang unit officers made a traffic stop in Westminster that resulted in John Andrew Torres, 26, of Fullerton, and Erick Catalan, 20, of Long Beach, being shot dead Nov. 1, 2011, "official" explanations for the police engagement kept changing.
That's the kind of thing that creates mistrust of law enforcement . . . and wrongful death lawsuits.
Catalan's mother, Maria Isabel Garcia, has filed a legal claim against Huntington Beach, claiming city police wrongfully executed her son. Such claims are routinely rejected by city councils, clearing the way for the filing of lawsuits in civil court.
Garcia's claim, which does not specify a dollar amount for damages, states Catalan was unarmed, that police did not take reasonable actions to arrest him, that the cops acted unconstitutionally and that evidence was "planted" to cover up excessive force. Huntington Beach city officials say the complaint is under review. The police department says a separate Orange County Sheriff's Department investigation of the shooting should wrap up soon.
Gang unit cops followed a Lexus into Westminster before stopping it. A woman got out before the officers fired into the Lexus, killing then men.
The sheriff's department originally said their Huntington Beach colleagues were investigating a Halloween 2011 gang shooting on Surf City's Queens Lane that put two men in the hospital. But deputies later backed off that statement.
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The follow-up explanation and said the officers believed one of the dead men--they did not say which one--was armed, so they followed the Lexus. Police say the gang unit cops heard a gunshot inside the vehicle, so they returned fire. A loaded .40-caliber handgun that had been fired was found inside the Lexus, according to police.
A gang unit cop with 20 years of police experience was put on administrative leave after the shooting, as is department policy.