A federal jury awarded a man $225,000 Wednesday in a civil case against three Metropolitan Police Department officers involved in a 2013 shooting.
The jury ruled that officer Joseph Parra, 40, was negligent when he accidentally shot 28-year-old Angel Landeros while firing at a man suspected of attempted murder.
Landeros and Amelia Villalba, also a plaintiff in the case, were negotiating a vehicle sale with Roberto Torres, who was wanted on a felony warrant, when three Metro officers approached them at an apartment complex on the 4100 block of Pennwood Avenue, near Valley View Boulevard.
Torres asked Landeros and Villalba if he could test-drive the vehicle. Officers Joseph Parra and Clyde Villanueva and Detective Scott Thomas moved in to make an arrest when they saw Torres heading toward the vehicle.
Landeros and Villalba were both struck when police opened fire on Torres, who police said shot his pregnant girlfriend in the head the day before.
A bullet fired by Parra passed through Landeros’ arm and into the left side of his body, lodging itself in his spine, according to the lawsuit. A bullet fired by Thomas grazed Villalba’s foot.
“Their lives were changed forever because of decisions they didn’t make,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Paola Armeni, told jurors.
Torres was shot four times and died at the scene.
Landeros’ medical bills amounted to about $78,000, and he was unable to work for months after he was shot. His orthopedic surgeon, Daniel Lee, said Landeros likely would develop severe arthritis in the future because of the injury.
The jury did not find that the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights were violated, and Armeni dropped claims of Fourth Amendment violations on the last day of the trial. The jury, which awarded Villalba no damages, did not find that Thomas and Villanueva were negligent.
Parra testified Tuesday that Torres drew a gun and shot first, and that Parra fired back in response.
Attorney Craig Anderson, who represented the three officers, argued that the men followed their training and acted appropriately given the circumstances.
“As a police officer, there’s nothing worse than being accused of excessive force,” Anderson said. “Everyone in this room feels horrible for the plaintiffs.”
Landeros and Villalba did not ask for a specific sum of money, but Armeni told the jury the cost of their medical bills and a $300,000 surgery that Landeros could need in the future.
Villanueva and Thomas no longer work for Metro.