The mother of a 5-year-old boy who was fatally shot in 1983 when a Stanton police officer mistook the boy's toy gun for a real weapon agreed Friday to accept $395,000 from the city to settle a lawsuit stemming from the incident.
The settlement came four days before the $20-million wrongful-death suit brought by Patricia Ann Ridge was to begin trial in Orange County Superior Court.
Her son, Patrick Andrew Mason, was shot in his mother's apartment by Officer Anthony Sperl, who had been dispatched to check a report that the boy had not been in class or been seen for several days.
Sperl, who retired from the police force a few months after the shooting, will not have to pay any damages under the settlement.
"They released me this morning 100% from the case--punitive damages, compensatory damages, everything--which proves me to be correct, which proves me to be right," Sperl, 27, said Friday.
"I was vindicated by Stanton, by the Orange County sheriff, by the FBI, by the Orange County Grand Jury. Now I'm vindicated civilly. . . . I can go on with my life now."
Ridge, 32, who moved to Chicago shortly after the shooting, could not be reached for comment. But her attorney, Richard Farnell of Newport Beach, said: "She's very happy. She's glad to have it over with."
Nancy Zeltzer, an attorney for the City of Stanton, said: "It was going to be a long trial and there was going to be tense proceedings, very sad issues, and it's just a very, very sad story. And I think no one really wanted to go through that publicly."
The incident began when a parent at Patrick's school reported that the boy had been absent for 10 days and that she had been unable to reach Ridge. Sperl was dispatched to Ridge's apartment the evening of March 3, 1983.
Entered With Passkey
Sperl told investigators that when he received no response, he entered the apartment with a manager's passkey, kicked open the door to the bedroom, mistook the toy gun Patrick pointed at him for a real weapon and shot the boy. With his toy holster still circling his hips, Patrick clung to Sperl's leg, gazed up at him and died, the former officer said.
Ridge said she had left her son alone at home when she went to work because she could not afford a baby sitter.