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Family of Deputy Slain in Standoff to Get $650,000

The insurer of James Allen Beck, who killed the officer in Santa Clarita in 2001, agrees to the settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

June 03, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Relatives of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Hagop "Jake" Kuredjian will receive $650,000 under a settlement reached Monday with the insurer of James Allen Beck, the Santa Clarita resident who shot and killed the officer two years ago during an armed standoff at Beck's home.

Beck, who was killed in the incident, and his mother, Donna, were named in the wrongful death suit, filed in April 2002 in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Kuredjian's mother, Anahid Tchaghatzbanian of Ventura County.

Under the agreement, State Farm Insurance Co., which represents the estates of both Beck and his mother, will pay out the money, said Kuredjian family attorney, Matthew J. Geragos. The plaintiff's lawyer agreed to dismiss the suit against Donna Beck, who owned the house.

"I'm pleased that it ended the way it did," Geragos said. "Anahid wouldn't have to sit through the testimony about how her son died and then have to tell about her loss."

Glendale attorney Benjamin Alvarez, who represents Donna Beck, said his client also was relieved to put an end to the case. "I think everybody was happy to get this thing done and behind them," Alvarez said. "She also lost her son."

Beck, 35, an ex-convict, was under investigation for firearms violations and impersonating a federal agent. When federal and local authorities attempted to serve a search warrant at his Stevenson Ranch home Aug. 31, 2001, he began firing at them.

Kuredjian, a 40-year-old motorcycle officer, was shot and killed moments after he arrived on the scene.

"We are not going to comment on the merits of the case," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "But [Kuredjian] is a hero, not only to us but to all of law enforcement and especially to the community of Santa Clarita."

During the standoff, authorities lobbed a tear-gas canister into an upstairs bedroom of the home, which caught fire. County firefighters sprayed water on adjacent homes but didn't try to save Beck or his house, because they believed it would be too dangerous, officials said.

Beck's mother also filed a wrongful death suit in April 2002, seeking unspecified damages from Los Angeles County for the loss of her son, his funeral expenses and her anguish over his death. The suit, which is still pending, contends that authorities used excessive force against her son; that deputies let the two-story house burn down while he was inside, preventing firefighters from saving him; and that authorities later altered evidence.

The Sheriff's Department has denied the allegations, saying there was no attempt to cover up anything by waiting until dark to allow coroner's officials access to the body.

The county Board of Supervisors in October approved a settlement totaling $200,000 for Beck's next-door neighbors.

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