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Jury awards nearly $1.2 million to bounty hunter shot by LAPD

Elvin Andre Gilbert was detaining a man wanted on a felony in South L.A. in 2005 when an officer shot him. Gilbert was arrested but not charged. The jury found the LAPD did not have cause to arrest Gilbert.

January 21, 2011|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

A bounty hunter who was shot and wounded by Los Angeles police who mistook him for a robber as he was taking a fugitive into custody has been awarded nearly $1.2 million by a federal jury.

Jurors earlier this month found Los Angeles Police Department Officer Daniel Pearce used "excessive force" when he shot Elvin Andre Gilbert in South L.A., where the bail recovery agent was detaining a bail jumper wanted on a felony.

The shooting occurred Nov. 30, 2005, and left Gilbert, who was working for a San Jose bail bonds company, in a medically induced coma for several days from the gunshot wounds.

"I am glad it is over, and I'm happy with the jury's decision," said Gilbert, who continues to live with injuries he received. "I am very happy the jurors got to hear what really happened," he said in a phone interview. The LAPD "made a lot of statements that contradicted the facts to try to justify the shooting."

Gilbert was shot after Pearce and his then-partner, Officer Harlan Taylor, heard a commotion near the 2100 block of East 99th Place and saw two men dressed in black holding a man's wrists behind his back and escorting him at gunpoint.

Officers said one of the men held a gun to the head of Isabino Vasquez, and they believed Gilbert and fellow bail agent Allen Badoya were committing a robbery or a kidnapping.

The officers, according to the LAPD, ordered Gilbert to drop the handgun, but Gilbert turned toward them, and Pearce shot him three times. One round hit the left side of Gilbert's stomach and came out the right side, while another went through his right arm.

During a six-day trial, Gilbert's attorney, Dale K. Galipo, presented witnesses who said Gilbert and his partner were about to escort the fugitive and his gun was not raised when officers confronted them. He also said officers did not shout a warning before they fired.

"They shot me as soon as I stood up," Gilbert said Thursday. "Once I was hit, it was lights out.... I never saw the officers or heard them. I only knew they were police officers when they said they would blow my head off if I moved and began handcuffing me."

Gilbert was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer, and the LAPD guarded his hospital room for several days. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to charge Gilbert.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jan Ian Perlstein noted the "facts tend to indicate he turned toward the officer to see where the shooting was coming from."

The jurors hearing the civil lawsuit found the LAPD officers did not have the required probable cause to arrest Gilbert.

On Jan. 10 the jury awarded Gilbert $1.165 million, comprising $365,000 for economic damages, $200,000 for physical pain, mental suffering and emotional distress and $600,000 for future damages.

A deputy city attorney who handled the case did not return calls from The Times.

Attorneys for Gilbert told jurors the bounty hunters had warned an LAPD patrol unit the day before that they would be in the area seeking to detain a fugitive. The jurors' decision contradicts one by the Los Angeles Police Commission that found the use of force to be within department policy but that the officers' tactics warranted further training.

Deputy City Atty. Richard Arias said the city is considering whether to appeal the jury's award. He said he was surprised by the verdict. The city maintains the officers had probable cause to arrest Gilbert and the officer who shot him maintains he did so in defense of his life and his partner's life.

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