The County of Orange has reportedly agreed to pay $400,000 to the parents of a man who was shot to death by sheriff’s deputies inside his Rancho Santa Margarita home last year.
The Orange County District Attorney's office had previously deemed the officer-involved shooting of 40-year-old Alec Ouzounian “reasonable and justified.”
Ouzounian, a self-employed toymaker with a history of depression, had threatened to harm himself the afternoon of May 12, 2015, when his father called 9-1-1 for help.
Raffi Ouzounian got into his son's home at 28 Paseo Viento, where he communicated with deputies who were outside. Once inside, the deputies found the elder Ouzounian outside a locked bathroom door with a pool of blood at his feet.
Deputies forced their way inside the bathroom and found the younger Ouzounian naked in a bathtub, where he had repeatedly stabbed himself in the neck, arms, chest and legs with a knife.
The dead man's mother and father claimed in a lawsuit against the county that deputies then opened fire on Ouzounian without giving voice commands.
Deputies later told prosecutors investigating the shooting that Ouzounian had stood up in the tub and, while still holding the knife, ignored orders to sit back down and lunged at the officers.
In June of 2015, Raffi and his wife Sema Ouzounian retained Los Angeles celebrity criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, who claimed the parents had no idea they were putting their son in danger when they sought medical assistance for their troubled soul.
"I can think of nothing more horrific as a father, and an Armenian, than seeing the unlawful killing of a loved one who simply needed medical help," said Geragos as he announced the wrongful death claim against the county. "We are confident the legacy of Alec Ouzounian will live on and lead to changes in the way the [Orange County] Sheriff's Department responds to calls involving mental illness."
As county residents hold their collective breath waiting for that, Supervisor Todd Spitzer reportedly explains that his colleagues voted in closed session in mid-November to settle with the Ouzounians because they did not trust a jury would side with law enforcement.
“We are operating in an environment that is very anti-law-enforcement nowadays, so this is a business decision to guard against a runaway jury that could come back with a (decision giving the plaintiff) millions of dollars,” Spitzer, who cast the lone board vote against settling, told the Orange County Register.
“Even if you assume the father’s version, so what?” Spitzer added. “(Ouzounian) had a knife, there was blood everywhere, he was filleting himself, and he stood up and came at the deputies. They didn’t have any choice but to shoot him. But we are in a very bad time when it comes to defending officer-involved shooting cases.”
Why? Volume, volume, volume!