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Wrongful-death suit filed in Huntington Beach shooting

Parents accuse police of excessive, unreasonable force in killing their 18-year-old daughter.

July 27, 2007|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

The parents of a knife-carrying woman killed in a confrontation with Huntington Beach police filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday accusing the two officers who shot her of excessive and unreasonable force.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana also alleges that investigators illegally searched Ashley MacDonald's home after she was killed. The suit seeks at least $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages for each of the teen's parents, Kenneth MacDonald and Lisa Marie Guy.

Huntington Beach Police Lt. Craig Junginger, a department spokesman, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

Neal Moore, deputy senior city attorney for Huntington Beach, said he had not seen the lawsuit but was not surprised that it was filed.

"The matter's been looked at by the city, the Sheriff's Department and the district attorney, and everybody's reached the same conclusion: The officers acted reasonably and appropriately under the circumstances," he said.

MacDonald, 18, was shot Aug. 25 by Officers Read Parker and Shawn Randell after they responded to 911 reports of a woman holding a knife while walking near Sun View Park.

A witness told reporters that MacDonald appeared to be turning to the side to run away when she was shot, and that police acted improperly.

Investigations by the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office cleared the officers of wrongdoing, finding they were forced into a split-second decision to kill someone who was more dangerous than depicted in news reports.

According to prosecutors, MacDonald was under the influence of methamphetamines and told the officers, "I'm on drugs, just ... kill me" before running toward them. She was shot 15 times when she came within eight feet of one of them.

In their lawsuit, MacDonald's parents dispute that their daughter lunged at the officers. Instead, they allege that she did nothing threatening and was shot when she "took a step to begin to walk away." They also allege that the officers continued to shoot her once she was on the ground.

"They just kept plugging away at her," said the parents' attorney, Jerry Steering.

The parents also contend that the officers had other options, including disarming Ashley with their batons or waiting "a very short time" that it would have taken for a fellow officer at the scene to load his pepper-spray gun before MacDonald was approached.

Guy also alleges that authorities held her against her will away from the scene, searching her apartment without her consent and repeatedly lying about her daughter's welfare, telling her that she was unharmed.

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