SANTA ANA, Calif. (KTLA) — The family of a man fatally shot by Long Beach police in 2010 was awarded $6.5 million in damages by a federal jury on Thursday.
“The money doesn’t bring my son back, which is all I really want,” Douglas Zerby’s mother, Pam Amici, said after the verdict, chocking back tears.
“I would just rather have Doug standing here next to me right now. But this is all we can hope for, and I’m very happy with the result.”
The jury deliberated for one day before ruling that officers Jeffrey Shurtleff and Victor Ortiz were negligent and used excessive force when Zerby was shot and killed.
At the time, Zerby, 35, was on a friend’s porch in Belmont Shore, holding a water nozzle that a neighbor thought might be a gun.
Apparently, unbeknownst to Zerby, police arrived and surrounded the area.
When police say Zerby appeared to be pointing what they thought was a gun toward one of the officer’s positions, police opened fire.
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 most important thing is they never announced their presence,” said the family’s attorney attorney, Garo Mardirossian.
“They didn’t give him an opportunity to at least cooperate, to do what the officers wanted him to do,” he continued.
“The first time he realized there were cops there is when they shot him, and that just should not happen in America,” he said.
“I’m happy that we got justice and I’m glad that they got to go home feeling bad for themselves,” River Sentell, Zerby’s now 10-year-old son, said on Thursday.
But Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who was in court for the verdict, said he was disappointed by the decision.
He says the officers were cleared in an internal probe and still defends their actions.
“Their actions, we believe, were in immediate defense of life,” McDonnell said. “That’s the way we judge — based on the circumstances known to them at the time.”
McDonnell said that city attorneys are still evaluating all of their options in terms of a possible appeal in the case.