The mothers of two home burglary suspects slain by Torrance police while hiding in a backyard shed filed a claim for damages Monday, putting the city on notice that it faces a wrongful-death civil lawsuit.
Brian T. Dunn, a lawyer for the parents of the two men, said the legal action was taken because "we haven't heard anything, and we haven't seen anything, to suggest to us that these young men posed a threat to any person that justified the taking of their lives."
The Torrance Police Department has said that neither of the suspects was carrying a gun during the midafternoon confrontation July 14. But police officials said the men instigated the showdown by moving "aggressively" toward the officers with "sharp yard tools" after police opened the shed where the two were trapped following a four-hour manhunt.
Two officers, police have said, fired "multiple shots" at the men, Charlie Maurice Wilson, 20, of Gardena, and Shaun Conely Devell McCoy, 22, of Adelanto.
City officials issued a statement Monday saying that "the facts surrounding this event remain under investigation. The city attorney's office will evaluate the claim when the investigation has been completed." The incident was the third officer-involved shooting for Torrance police in 12 days.
Dunn said the shed where the confrontation took place "is riddled with bullets," suggesting that the suspects still were inside when they were shot to death. "It's very difficult for me to understand how an individual that's not armed with a gun can pose a threat of death or significant bodily injury when they're crouched in a shed," he said.
Also on Monday, Dunn and the mother of a third man allegedly involved in the burglary, Erin Jamahl Madden, 19, disputed the police assertion that the three suspects belonged to a "notorious, violent street gang."
Freddie Madden of Fontana said her son, a highly regarded football player who recently enrolled at the Compton campus of El Camino College, had never been in trouble before his move to Compton this year.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Erin Madden, 19, of Harbor City last month on suspicion of illegally possessing a firearm. Freddie Madden said her son was carrying the weapon in his car for protection.
The claimants in Monday's filing were Lilian Mitchell of Los Angeles, Wilson's mother; and Joy Bedford of Adelanto, McCoy's mother. Dunn is with the Cochran Firm, founded by the late Los Angeles attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.