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Informant's Kin Can Sue Police, Court Rules

Litigation: Family of the slain Yorba Linda teen who aided Brea officers will proceed with claim.

July 24, 2002|STUART PFEIFER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Relatives of a Yorba Linda teenager slain by gang members after working as an undercover Brea police informant can pursue legal claims against the department, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana comes nearly two years after an Orange County judge dismissed the lawsuit, concluding police were not liable because the teen's mother signed a waiver consenting to her son's informant role.

Chad MacDonald, 17, agreed to work as an informant for Brea police in January 1998 after they arrested him on suspicion of methamphetamine possession.

Authorities agreed not to prosecute him in return for his services, which included one undercover drug buy.

After police arrested MacDonald a second time with narcotics, they told him he no longer could work as an informant and would be charged. Less than two weeks later, MacDonald was strangled at a Norwalk house frequented by drug dealers.

In response to the teen's death, state lawmakers passed a law restricting police use of minors as informants.

MacDonald's mother, Cindy, said she was relieved to learn of the appellate court's decision. She said she signed the waiver under duress and that Brea police failed to protect her son.

"I couldn't be happier," she said. "Chad's going to get his day in court."

Leonard Hampel, the attorney representing Brea police, could not be reached for comment.

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