Family members of a man shot and killed at the end of a pursuit and standoff in Santa Ana last year have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana, with claims of excessive force and negligence, among others.
The federal lawsuit, filed July 21 on behalf of the parents and four children of Brandon Lopez, includes 13 claims and seeks unspecified damages. Family members previously had said they would seek $20 million at a November press conference in Santa Ana announcing they had filed a claim with the city of Anaheim.
An Anaheim police spokesman also previously said that no Santa Ana officers were involved in the shooting, but attorneys representing the family say the city is liable because its officers gave control of the standoff to Anaheim police despite having jurisdiction.
The attorneys claim the shooting happened minutes after the exchange and that Santa Ana police violated department policy by relinquishing control of the standoff, which its officers had engaged in for more than three hours.
“The communication, planning and coordination between the two agencies was reckless and/or negligent and contrary to APD and SAPD policies, and contrary to basic police training, including the negligent failure to formulate a tactical plan and failure to de-escalate the situation,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
In September, Lopez led Anaheim police on a pursuit into Santa Ana after officers learned he was driving a stolen car and had three warrants out for his arrest, including one for armed robbery. Officers disengaged because Lopez drove recklessly, but returned after the car got stuck in a light rail construction zone on Santa Ana Boulevard near Bristol Street.
For hours, Lopez, 34, refused to come out of the car until Anaheim officers threw a flash bang and released a “chemical agent” into the car, forcing Lopez out. He was shot within seconds after an officer yelled “Gun! Gun! Gun!”
Family members, some of whom were at the scene when the shooting occurred, have claimed Lopez was suffering from a mental health crisis, but that claim was not mentioned in the lawsuit.
Their attorneys claimed Lopez’ cousin, Santa Ana City Councilman Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, and his father, Antonio Lopez, were denied opportunities to communicate with Brandon Lopez to try to de-escalate the situation and Antonio Lopez was detained by police for several hours for his efforts, according to the lawsuit.
They claimed police made no other attempts to de-escalate the incident before using the flash bang to force Lopez out of the car. Lopez was unarmed, holding a water bottle, the lawsuit says, adding that officers shot him without warning.
Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit as of Wednesday.
“This is premature,” Lyster said in a statement. “While we disagree with characterizations being made and believe our officers acted in the best interest of public safety, this incident remains under review, both internally and by the state of California. We want to respect that process and let it play out.”
Santa Ana officials did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.