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Los Angeles Law Enforcement Killed Four Unarmed People in the Past Year

Clockwise From Top Left: Brian Beaird, Ezell Ford, John Winkler, Frank Mendoza
Clockwise From Top Left: Brian Beaird, Ezell Ford, John Winkler, Frank Mendoza
Andrew Stein

On August 20th the Los Angeles City Council approved a $5-million settlement with the family of Brian Beaird, an unarmed man who on December 13, 2013 was shot to death at the end of a car chase that was broadcast live on television. The proposed payout is the largest settlement the city has made in a fatal police shooting case in at least a decade. It also comes in tandem with the August 11th shooting of an unarmed man named Ezell Ford, and a more recent $4.2M settlement with two women who were wounded by Los Angles Police Department (LAPD) officers during their hunt for Christopher Dorner. In addition, this year the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) shot and killed two unarmed men in separate incidents after mistaking them for armed suspects.

Brian Newt Beaird, 51, led police on a wild, hour-long pursuit around southeast L.A. and downtown L.A. on the night of Dec. 13, 2013. In the final moments of the pursuit he crashed into another vehicle at the corner of Los Angeles St. and Olympic Blvd, downtown. After attempting to drive his mangled Corvette sports car, Brian staggered out and was shot within seconds. All of these events can be seen here (WARNING: Footage is violent)

The Beaird settlement came just days after LAPD officers shot and killed Ezell Ford in South L.A. Several questions remain about the Aug. 11 death of Ford, a 25-year-old man who was shot by two officers as he walked home on West 65th Street near Broadway. Police allege that he tackled one of the officers and reached for his gun, prompting both officers to open fire. However, witnesses claim there was no struggle. The shooting has clouded a decade’s-long effort by the LAPD to improve relationships with South L.A. neighborhoods in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating.

The Beaird award surpasses another speedy settlement the city made after police mistakenly fired on two newspaper carriers during the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, an ex-LAPD officer who killed four people during a rampage in November of 2013. In that case, the city agreed within weeks to pay $4.2 million to Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71. Other notable awards given out by the LAPD include $5.7 million to Robert Contreras, who was shot and paralyzed by police in 2005 (though this was awarded by a jury). And a $15-million settlement in 2000 (the largest in L.A. history) to a then-23-year-old Javier Ovando, who in 1996 was shot and paralyzed by two LAPD Rampart Division officers, left for dead, and then framed and falsely imprisoned.

For their part the LASD is still contending with the fallout of the shootings of John Winkler and Frank Mendoza. Winkler was shot in April while running out of a neighbor’s house along with the bloodied victim of a knife-wielding man who perpetrated a hostage situation in West Hollywood. Winkler went to the neighbor’s residence to help but LASD deputies mistook him for the suspect and opened fire. Mendoza was also shot in a hostage situation that had unfolded at his own home. When police arrived the suspect opened fire on deputies from inside the house and Mendoza was killed after deputies returned fire.