Maria Lopez has filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit today nearly two years after her 23-year-old son was gunned down by Anaheim police. David Raya, a Fullerton resident, was staying at his girlfriend's West Guinida Lane apartment on August 16, 2011 when the Anaheim Police Department Crime Task Force (CTF) attempted to contact him.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) report into the incident released last October, a foot chase ensued, when Anaheim police investigator Bruce Linn fired three shots at Raya, claiming the man had made motions towards his rear waistband.
Two more shots were fired, striking and killing Raya. Linn, who was also involved in the 2009 fatal shooting death of 35-year-old Caesar Cruz, said he feared for his life and that of his partner Chad Meyer, interpreting Raya's continued reaching as an attempt to pull a gun.
No weapon was ever recovered from the scene, only a glass pipe authorities say was retrieved in the waistband of his shorts near the small of his back. The OCDA concluded its investigative letter by clearing the officer of any criminal culpability in his actions.
In the suit filed today, Lopez contends that her son's civil rights were violated by Anaheim police. "Although serious efforts were made over a long period of time by Mr. Raya's mother...to resolve this case without litigation there has been no serious effort by the city of Anaheim," attorney Richard Herman is quoted as saying in City News Service.
The federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit names Linn, retired Chief of Police John Welter, retired Deputy Chief Craig Hunter and the city of Anaheim.
CTF investigators had been informed by a 'wanted' flyer prepared by the APD Gang Unit in late July before the shooting that Raya was "an armed parolee-at-large with a warrant for his arrest." Other emails noted him as a dangerous gang member. He had been on parole at the time for assault with a firearm. On the day of the fatal shooting Linn was updated with information noting Raya as "on the run" and "stressed" with access to a shotgun.
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"He was working in a restaurant with his mother," Herman tells the Weekly in countering the claim. "He did not want to go back to prison."
The Newport Beach-based attorney says the incident that occurred that fateful day amounted to a tragedy in a way reflective of how Anaheim's recent problems started. "They basically shot a guy running away in the back because they say he was reaching for a gun," he says. "It just doesn't make any sense and it's unfortunate."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz