SANTA ANA, Calif. (KTLA) — The family of Douglas Zerby, who was shot and killed by officers after they were called to investigate a report of a man with a gun, was awarded $6.5 million in damages by a federal jury Thursday.
The jury deliberated for one day before ruling that two Long Beach police officers violated the constitutional rights of the 35-year-old man.
Zerby was fatally shot without warning by Officers Jeffrey Shurtleff and Victor Ortiz while holding a water nozzle outside his Belmont Shore apartment in December 2010.
Autopsy results revealed that Zerby was shot 12 times in the chest, arms and lower legs. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.42% and had Valium and THC in his system at the time of his death.
The defense argued Zerby made an aggressive movement with what they believed to be a gun and the officers thought their lives were in imminent danger.
They say this did not allow them the chance to issue a warning before opening fire.
Zerby’s family says it was a tragedy that could have been avoided.
“It all comes back to, you observed this man for almost eight minutes, and never once in that eight minutes did you think to identify yourself,” Zerby’s sister, Eden Marie Belle, told KTLA prior to the trial.
“There was no verbal communication, there was no eye contact. My brother did not know he was being observed. He did not know there were police on site.”