City News Service

Family of Man Killed in Pursuit Crash Wants Justice, Not $1.3M Settlement

After the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.3 million settlement for the family of a father of three who was struck and killed by a sheriff's patrol car during a pursuit, the family said it wanted justice, not money.

"I don't want the money. I want to have them behind bars. I want justice," Alvaro Cerda, the victim's brother, said Wednesday at a news conference.

The relatives of Alfonso Cerda, who was struck and killed by a sheriff's patrol car during a pursuit in October 2012, said Wednesday that they would decline a $1.3 million county-approved settlement if the deputies involved are punished.

On Oct. 8, 2012, Alfonso Cerda was riding his bike when sheriff's deputies tried to make an arrest. The squad car from the South Los Angeles station collided with Cerda about 1:25 a.m. in the 3500 block of West 107th Street in Inglewood.

Cerda, 44, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"There is not a single day that I don't think about my brother," Alvaro said. "He was known in this community. He was known as the most friendliest person."

The Sheriff's Department initially reported that deputies believed Cerda was armed with a gun, but later retracted that statement.

"While the deputies exited their vehicle, the suspect fled on his bicycle," according to the original statement released by the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau. "Seconds later, the suspect brandished a gun toward the deputies. One deputy took cover, while the other deputy followed the suspect in his marked unit. The deputy attempted to get ahead of him, and a traffic collision occurred between the marked unit and the suspect."

Four days later, the Sheriff's Department issued a statement saying the earlier report of a gun was inaccurate.

"No weapon was recovered or was believed to be in Mr. Cerda's possession at the time of the incident," according to the later statement, which failed to disclose the original reason deputies tried to make an arrest.

At a vigil for his father, Alfonso Cerda Jr. said his dad never carried a weapon.

"If he was on his bike he had a flashlight, his wallet, and that's it — and his happiness," his son said.

Cerda died of blunt force upper body injuries, according to records on the county coroner's website, which also listed "cardiomegaly; probable methamphetamine effect" under "other significant causes." Cardiomegaly is an enlarged heart.

Citing the risks and uncertainties of litigation, county lawyers recommended settlement.

"Now we feel like it's not the money. We would gladly give it back if they put them behind bars in jails for their cowardly acts. They are criminals hiding behind their badge," Alvaro said.

Requests for the board to approve a settlement in excess of $100,000 typically include a Corrective Action Plan that includes some detail about the incident that sparked the lawsuit, a review of investigations that followed and actions taken in order to avoid similar future incidents, including disciplinary action.

In this case, the Corrective Action Plan was not publicly disclosed because it contains "confidential peace officer personnel matters," according to a county spokesman.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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