LOS ANGELES — An attorney for a 15-year-old boy who was mistakenly shot by police in South Los Angeles after one of his companions was spotted with a replica handgun an officer thought was authentic filed a $20 million claim against the city April 8.
Attorney John Harris said police showed “callous disregard” for 15-year-old Jamar Nicholson, who was shot in the back around 7:45 a.m. Feb. 10 near Crenshaw Boulevard and Florence Avenue.
The officer was one of a group of criminal gang homicide officers in civilian clothes conducting an investigation in the area. Police said one officer called out to the youth carrying the replica weapon and ordered him to put it down, and when he didn’t, an officer fired, striking Jamar in the upper back.
Los Angeles Police Department officials declined to comment on the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.
LAPD spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the investigation into the shooting was continuing and that the officer who shot Nicholson, Miguel Gutierrez, has returned to normal duty.
In February, LAPD officials blamed the shooting on the existence of realistic replica weapons. In the days following the shooting, LAPD officials held a news conference, displaying realistic-looking replica weapons and urging parents to prevent their children from carrying such toys.
“When you carry a fake weapon or a fake gun in a community that has a lot of weapons in it, people will react much differently than they will in a community where there aren’t weapons,” Phillip Tingirides, an assistant commanding officer for Operation South Bureau for the LAPD, said at the time.
“Whether it’s a police officer or whether it’s somebody else who is armed — who shouldn’t be — when you pull out a fake gun, you take a chance of getting shot.
“It’s one of those things where you might ask yourself ‘Is it fair, that in this community, I’m in a lot more danger than I am in that community?’ No, it’s not fair, but it is the reality,” Tingirides said.
After the shooting, Nicholson told the Los Angeles Times he knew his friend was carrying a replica gun but had no idea whether his friend was pointing it in his direction. He said the boys were walking their normal route to school, when he heard someone yell, “Freeze!” Seconds later, he was shot.
The Times identified the officer who fired the shot as Miguel Gutierrez, who has been with the department since 2002.
The shooting of Nicholson angered community activists who compared it to other shooting involving the police and teenaged black youths, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.
“The officer shot the wrong kid to begin with,” said Najee Ali of the National Action Network in February. “We know for a fact that statistics show that all children of all races play with toy guns. But it seems only the black and Latino children end up being shot. It’s inexcusable.”