Lawsuit Dismissed in Toddler's Shootout Death

A judge Monday dismissed a woman's lawsuit alleging a  Los Angeles police SWAT unit was negligent in an operation that led to the  death of her toddler daughter, who was killed in a shootout initiated by her  dad.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found that based on  evidence presented during trial testimony, there was no way for jurors to  conclude that the officers acted unreasonably in trying to rescue 19-year-old  Suzie Pena, who was being held as a human shield by her father, Jose Raul Pena.

Treu issued his ruling on the day jurors were scheduled to hear final  arguments. Instead, the judge sent them home without giving them a chance to  deliberate.

"We're stunned," said Alejandro Blanco, one of the lawyers for the  plaintiff, Lorena Lopez. "We respectfully disagree with the judge. We believe  there was sufficient evidence and that there would have been a split decision  in favor of the plaintiff if the case went to the jury."

Blanco said he does not yet know if the ruling will be appealed.

Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, said a  comment on the ruling may be issued later today.

Lopez's daughter died in her 35-year-old father's arms after being  accidentally shot by police inside the business office of Raul's Auto Sales in  Watts on July 10, 2005. Pena also died from police bullets.

Pena had barricaded himself inside and engaged in a shootout with  officers. Police said he was under the influence of cocaine and  methamphetamine.

The plaintiff's attorneys maintained the girl's death could have been  prevented if police used other tactics instead of running into the office and  trying to rescue her while her father held her in one hand and a gun in the  other.

But lawyers for the city countered that the girl was in imminent peril  and that the SWAT team members considered her survival their top priority.

At the time of her daughter's death, Lopez had been living with her  boyfriend for six years, but their relationship had become strained and Pena  was high on drugs the day of the shootings, according to her lawyer, Daniel  Rodriguez.

Two bullets initially struck Pena, and his toddler was also shot twice,  according to the LAPD. The fatal bullet went through the girl's head, while a  second, superficial wound punctured her lower left leg.

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