A federal jury recently ruled against the mother of a Long Beach teen who was one of two killed in an officer-involved shootout with two Huntington Beach cops in Westminster on Nov. 1, 2011.
The Huntington Beach Police Department said at the time that the officers were following a vehicle carrying three people because cops believed one occupant–John Torres, 26, of Fullerton–was armed.
This led to a traffic stop on Hammon Place north of Westminster Boulevard in Westminster, where a woman got out of the car and was placed in a police unit while Torres and Erick Catalan, 19, of Long Beach, remained inside.
The lawsuit brought by Catalan's mother, Maria Isabel Garcia, identified the on-scene officers as Officer Kenton Ferrin and Sgt. Tom Weizoerick. An Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) investigation of the officer-involved shooting found that Ferrin heard a gunshot and fired in the direction of Torres, as did Weizoerick.
Catalan was shot after he reached toward Torres and ignored orders to put his hands up, according to the DA's office, adding a stolen gun later found inside the vehicle had the DNA of both men was on it.
Garcia filed her wrongful death complaint in April 2012, and the OCDA cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing six months later, in October 2012.
Robert English, Garcia's attorney, argued in court the two officers should have waited for backup after the car was pulled over. He later told City News Service his client was less interested in a financial award than she was an admission from the City of Huntington Beach that the officers mishandled the situation.
But after about 2 1/2 hours of deliberations, jurors found in favor the city and the officers.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.