Walter DeLeon, who was holding a towel over his arm when he was shot by Officer Cairo Palacios on June 19, 2015, says in the video he wants “to be heard and to bring change to to the Department, to the law enforcement departments, as to how they go about enforcing the law.”
DeLeon, 49, endured nine surgeries during his recovery, his attorneys say. He was in a coma for two weeks, lost one pound of cranial matter, he can no longer walk, he lost one of his eyes and suffers from flashbacks and nightmares, according to a lawsuit filed by DeLeon in California court.
His attorneys, Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas, of Geragos & Geragos, filed the civil rights complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.
“Mr. DeLeon’s survival is nothing short of a miracle,” his attorneys write in the complaint. “Yet his permanent catastrophic injuries persist, crippling Mr. DeLeon’s enjoyment of the most basic pleasures in life, and serving as a permanent reminder of the consequence of excessive and unhinged police conduct and power.”
According to the complaint, DeLeon had left home for a walk toward nearby Griffith Park at about 6:30 p.m. While he was on the sidewalk, an LAPD cruiser occupied by Palacios and his unnamed partner approached.
Witnesses say the officers began to talk to DeLeon tfrom inside their cruiser, while he was in a grassy area between the sidewalk and the curb, the complaint says.
They are seeking damages for a violations of civil rights, batter, violation of civil code and negligence.
You can read the full civil complaint filed in state court by Geragos & Geragos below or by clicking here:
His lawyers say DeLeon didn’t move onto the street and “was a substantial distance from the officers and posed no threat and made no threats.” DeLeon had a towel over his arm that he used to wipe sweat.
After a few seconds of conversation, “Palacios rushed out of his patrol car, drew his gun, and without warning or commands, immediately opened fire,” the complaint says.
DeLeon was shot in the right side of his head. His attorneys say DeLeon and his partner “stood idly by” and then handcuffed him while he was unconscious and bleeding profusely. They never provided medical aid. The aftermath of the shooting was recorded by witnesses:
“In sum, Officer Palacios shot Mr. DeLeon for carrying a towel,” DeLeon’s attorneys say. “Officer Palacios was in a vehicle and had a position of advantage, and there was no threat presented to him justifying the use of deadly force, or any force at all. Officer Palacios engaged in no de-escalation protocol and his first reaction when he was a man holding a towel was to (shoot) Mr. DeLeon in the head.”
After the shooting, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told the Associated Press the officers saw a man walking toward them in an aggressive manner.
He told the AP that Palacios “pointed at them with his hands clasped together and wrapped in a gray cloth. The officers left their patrol car and ordered him to drop a gun they believed he had.”
No weapon was found. The officers were put on administrative leave pending an investigation, which remains ongoing.
In the complaint, DeLeon’s attorneys argue that the shooting is part of the LAPD’s “pattern and practice of sending inadequately trained officers to patrol the city with ‘shoot-first and cover-up the facts later’ mentality as well as a lack of training in assessing threats and de-escalation protocols.”
According to the complaint, Palacios, the officer who shot DeLeon, and his partner were new to the LAPD. They had previously worked for the City of Los Angeles’ Department of General Services, providing security at public landmarks, and were added to the LAPD when the General Services’ security detail was absorbed by the department.
“Officer Palacios and his partner primarily patrolled Griffith Park, much as they had previously provided security at other public places, with the crucial difference being that they were suddenly full-fledged LAPD officers by virtue of the merger.”