A federal judge in Los Angeles has found law enforcement made a mistake and awarded more than $3-million to the parents of a teenager killed by a DEA agent in a parking lot in Studio City.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald said the incident in June, 2010 was, “a terrible tragedy that arose from a series of freakish events,” and said Wednesday he found the account of at least one federal agent inaccurate at best.
Zachary Champommie, 18, was shot to death when he accidentally rolled his car into an undercover Los Angeles County Sheriffs Dept. deputy in a public parking lot just north of Ventura Blvd. near Laurel Canyon.
Judge Fitzgerald said he rejected the DEA agent’s testimony of firing in order to protect other law enforcement officers.
“There really was no danger to [the deputy] and there really was no danger to the other officers in the lot,” Fitzgerald said. “No one at the moment of the shot was in immediate risk from the car.”
The deputy and other plainclothes officers and federal agents had met in the lot to discuss an unrelated narcotics case and no command or warning was given before Champommie was killed.
“It’s not about the dollar amount, it’s about justice,” Chompommie’s mother Carol said outside court. “I’m pleased with the verdict. An officer cannot use deadly force simply because he imagines a threat. The threat has to be real.”
“Every single witness at the scene – just about – was law enforcement, every single witness said it was a good shooting, and every witness, according to the judge’s finding, was incorrect,” said Carol Champonnie’s attorney Gary Dordick, who filed the case against the federal government.
-- Eric Leonard at Federal Court