Annette Montalvo was watching the TV evening news when a report aired about a police shooting in Lynwood, where her husband was spending the evening with friends. A live shot showed her family's car at the scene.
She dialed her mother-in-law, who knew nothing about Montalvo's husband's whereabouts, so she rushed to the hospital. It wasn't until the next day, she said, that she got the bad news.
A nurse led her into her husband's hospital room, where Alfredo Montalvo was on life support after being shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies. They had fired on the 29-year-old after a short pursuit that ended with him reversing into one of their cars.
"I was crying," Annette Montalvo said. "I couldn't believe it."
After a few hours, Alfredo Montalvo was taken off life support. On Tuesday, more than three years later, a Compton jury awarded Annette Montalvo and their two children nearly $9 million in a wrongful-death civil case.
The April 2009 incident began when deputies thought they saw Alfredo Montalvo driving drunk on his way out of a parking lot. Deputies began trailing Montalvo in an unmarked sheriff's car, said John C. Taylor, the family's attorney.
Montalvo eventually crashed into two parked cars, his vehicle wedged between them. More than a dozen deputies who were called for backup surrounded his car, the attorney said, but Montalvo went in reverse at least once and struck the unmarked sheriff's car.
Deputies fired 61 shots, Taylor said, in what he described as "contagious fire."
"There's a real problem with the sheriff in terms of using deadly force when it's not called for," Taylor said. Montalvo, he said, was unarmed, and an autopsy later determined he was not drunk.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department disagrees with the jury verdict and is considering appealing.
"He was ramming our deputies with his car," Whitmore said. One deputy was knocked to the ground, he said, and suffered minor injuries.
Montalvo's widow said she was grateful for the jury's $8,756,000 award.
She said the two had been married for only a year, and have two children: a daughter, 7, and a son, 4. She said her husband worked as a forklift operator and in private security. She still doesn't know why he led deputies on a pursuit.
"My kids will never have their father," said Montalvo, 35, of Whittier. "And my son will never get to know his dad."