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$775,000 City Payment Urged in Man's Death

September 20, 1986

The city attorney's office has recommended payment of $775,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a 19-year-old Pacoima man who was accidentally shot and killed by a Los Angeles police officer six years ago.

The victim, Kenneth Randolf Ramirez, was killed by police investigating a purse-snatching soon after Ramirez returned home from work at about 1 a.m. Oct. 16, 1980, according to court recods.

Ramirez was standing next to his father's car when a patrol car pulled alongside. As he approached the car, Officer William E. Rhinehart got out, drew his service revolver and accidentally squeezed the trigger, hitting Ramirez in the head and killing him, Assistant City Atty. Philip J. Sugar said Friday.

Only Keys in His Hands

Rhinehart had drawn his gun when he saw Ramirez's hand near his pocket, Sugar said. But officers found that Ramirez had only a set of keys in his hands and was not armed, Sugar said.

Rhinehart, an eight-year LAPD veteran, was not disciplined in the incident but he quit the department a year later, Sugar said.

Police had gone to the house after a woman reported that a man had stolen her purse in Beverly Hills that evening and gave police a license plate number of the suspect's car, which was traced to Ramirez's father.

Ramirez's brother was questioned in the theft but was not charged, Sugar said.

City Admits Liability

The city was sued by Ramirez's parents and 6-year-old daughter.

The city did not dispute its liability in the case, Sugar said. "It was an accidental shooting, and that legally translates into a negligent shooting," he said.

The city agreed to the settlement Thursday, just before the civil suit was scheduled to be tried in San Fernando Superior Court because of fears that a jury "would award substantially more," the assistant city attorney said.

"The minute this little girl walks into the courtroom, you were going to have 12 jurors fall in love with her," Sugar said. "There would have been a raw sympathy factor, and sympathy equals dollars."

The settlement will go to the City Council for approval this month, Sugar said.

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