It took almost a year, but a civilians oversight board has finally decided that the eight Los Angeles Police Department officers who shot over 100 rounds at two innocent women were not acting in accordance with department policy.
February 7, 2013 was the height of the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, who killed four people in his quest to get revenge on the police department that fired him. He was believed to be driving a charcoal Nissan Titan pickup truck with a ski rack and oversized tires.
Emma Hernandez, then 71, and her daughter Margie Carranza, 47, were delivering newspapers from their pickup truck, which was a blue Toyota Tacoma with no ski rack and regular sized tires. When one of the woman delivered a newspaper, a police officer mistook the sound of the paper hitting the ground with a gunshot, and all hell broke loose. While the officers were understandably stressed at the time -- there was a man out there hunting them down -- that's not a good enough reason to fire 103 rounds at a pickup truck that isn't even the same color as the one they were looking for.
Police chief Charlie Beck told the commission that the officers should have made "every effort that they determine that the truck was in fact Dorner's." Since the trucks were clearly not the same, he decided that they did not. Also, while the pen is mightier than the sword, Beck found that a newspaper is "not an object that could be reasonably perceived to be an imminent deadly threat."
"I sympathize with the officers, but I have a very high standard for the application of deadly force, and the shooting did not meet that standard," Beck said.
Fortunately for Hernandez and Carranza, only two of those 103 bullets hit their target. Hernandez was shot in the back twice. Carranza was injured by broken glass but otherwise unharmed. The women were given a $4.2 million settlement and another $40,000 to replace the truck back in April. That's right: it took just two months to figure out that they should get millions of dollars in compensation but a year for a panel to decide the police officers who shot them did something wrong.
And, according to the Los Angeles Times, that finding almost didn't happen at all. A "panel of high-ranking police officials" actually urged Beck to clear the officers, but he recommended to the Police Commission that they be found in violation of policy.
The officers, none of whom have been named, could face anything from extensive retraining to termination. We won't know what their punishments will be, though, because that information is private under state law. Of course, shooting innocent people is also against state law.