YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Region

City Settles Suit Over Death

One of the Riverside officers fired but later cleared in the shooting of Tyisha Miller will get half his salary tax-free for life, plus $100,000.

September 27, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Nearly five years after 19-year-old Tyisha Miller was killed by Riverside police, the city settled a lawsuit on Thursday with one of the officers fired in the aftermath of the shooting.

Former Officer Wayne Stewart, who was cleared of wrongdoing by county, state and federal investigators, will receive half of his salary tax-free for life, plus $100,000. It's the third settlement between the city and fired officers; two more officers have a federal claim pending.

City officials hope the move will help bring closure.

"We absolutely need to move on, and I think that the hope is that we've all learned something from this tragedy and that it never happens again," said Councilman Frank Schiavone.

Stewart's attorney, William Hadden of Santa Monica, said his client also decided it was time to move on. "The longer it was going to drag out, the more money they would ultimately end up paying Mr. Stewart -- that's the bottom line," Hadden said.

In December 1998, Miller locked herself in her disabled car at a service station and passed out with a gun in her lap. When police broke a window to try to get her medical aid, Miller awoke with a start. Police said she reached for the gun. The officers fired 24 times, striking her with 12 bullets.

The four officers involved and their supervisor were fired but were subsequently cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Riverside County district attorney's office, the state attorney general's office and the U.S. Department of Justice. The case triggered an uproar in Riverside's African American community and included demands for the white officers to be tried on murder charges.

Stewart and the other officers sued the city. In April, Superior Court Judge Charles E. Stafford Jr. ordered the city to allow Stewart to return to his job with back pay. In May, in the face of community outrage, the council voted to appeal the ruling.

Miller's family declined to comment on the settlement Friday.

Leonard Robinson, vice president of the Riverside branch of the NAACP, said the settlement was "bittersweet."

"We got what we really wanted, which is not getting him back on the force. But to get $100,000 and half of his salary tax-free for life? We're just wondering: What about [Miller's] family?" he said. "Hopefully, this closes another chapter in the Tyisha Miller incident, and we can move on and be healed."

The shooting has cost the city millions of dollars, and has led to reforms in the Police Department. The city settled a lawsuit filed by Miller's family for $3 million. Earlier this year the city settled with former Officer Michael Alagna and former Sgt. Gregory Preece. Both will receive half of their salaries tax-free for life, and Alagna received an additional $50,000.

Riverside still faces a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former Officers Paul Bugar and Dan Hotard. Mayor Ron Loveridge said the City Council would soon discuss in closed session whether to pursue a settlement with these officers, though their case against the city is different since they were probationary officers with less than six months on the job.

Los Angeles Times Articles