Jury Awards $1.7M to Family of Pakistani

Los Angeles , CA : The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) Jan 27 announced that a federal jury awarded $1.7 million to the family of a 21-year-old autistic Muslim man for his fatal shooting by a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer in 2008.

CAIR-LA Staff Attorney Ameena M. Qazi, with attorney Olu Orange, Mann and Cook Law Offices and the Disability Rights Legal Center filed a lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of the family of the victim, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry. The suit was filed against former LAPD officer Joseph Cruz and the LAPD for claims including wrongful death and excessive use of force, and against Los Angeles County for the failure to notify the Chaudhry family of their son's death for three weeks. Tenets of the Islamic faith require burying a body within three days of death.

Last week, the jury found that the officer used excessive force, acted with malice, and that the City of Los Angeles was liable as the officer's employer. Damages were awarded on Wednesday.

In March 2008, Chaudhry was shot three times in the torso by Cruz after Chaudhry was discovered lying on the ground of an apartment complex in Hollywood. Cruz was later fired for giving inaccurate accounts about a detainee who fled from his custody, and had previously been caught striking a man in his custody in the head.

Qazi met with LAPD representatives some months after the shooting, and followed up closely with them and the Office of the Inspector General during the course of the internal investigation. The investigation found no fault in the actions of Cruz and his partner.

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace had joined the suit as plaintiffs.

"This is a victory for the Chaudhry family who lost an innocent young son to police brutality and whose rights were callously discarded," Qazi said. "But the road to full justice on this case has just begun."

The South Asian Network (SAN), a grassroots, community-based organization, in a press release stated it supported the Chaudhry family since their son was killed.  In partnership with the family, SAN “ has educated the South Asian American community about this tragic killing …

SAN, the Chaudhry family and other civil rights and anti-police brutality groups organized a vigil on June 21, 2008, in Hollywood where Mr. Chaudhry was fatally shot.  The purpose of this vigil was to empower witnesses and to unite diverse communities to come together and take action against police violence. 

“Chaudhry family attorney Orange commented, “This case revealed many of the LAPD’s disturbing practices to prevent disclosure of the truth about instances of officer misconduct. Through the support of community organizations like SAN, the lawyers on this case were able to reach community members who were willing to stand for justice and help the family fight to reveal the truth.”

“When asked about this victory, Mohammad Umar Chaudhry, the elder brother of Usman, stated, ‘The family is most thankful for the outcome. Justice was sought and it has been served., “ the SAN press release concluded.             

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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