Federal Court Rules LAPD Officer Used Excessive Force in 2019 Venice Beach Shooting


Date: May 16 2022

Re: Federal Court Rules LAPD Officer Used Excessive Lethal Force

Case No. 2:20-cv-07211-DMG

MEDIA CONTACT: Dan Stormer - (626) 585-9600; dstormer@hadsellstormer.com Shaleen Shanbhag - (626) 585-9600; sshanbhag@hadsellstormer.com

Federal Court Rules LAPD Officer Used Excessive Force in 2019 Venice Beach Shooting of Houseless Man with Mental Illness

On August 14, 2019, LAPD Officer Jonathan Concetti fired two bullets at John Penny, a houseless man suffering from mental illness, who stood near his Venice Beach encampment while holding a thin board close to his body like a shield. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee issued an order finding that Officer Concetti used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, California’s Bane Act, and state law when he shot Mr. Penny.

Mr. Penny survived his gunshot wounds and filed this suit in August 2020. He is represented by Dan Stormer, Shaleen Shanbhag, and Tanya Sukhija-Cohen of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP.

The ten-minute long encounter leading to the shooting was captured on multiple officers’ body worn video cameras.

The court’s unique 29-page opinion states: “In light of the uncontroverted circumstances—the lack of criminal conduct or flight, the fact that Penny never attacked or attempted to attack the officers throughout the encounter, the commanding officer’s order to use less-lethal force, the absence of imminent harm towards Concetti just prior to the shooting, the failure to warn, the availability of less intrusive force, Penny’s evident impaired mental state, the large number of police officers present, and the extended timeframe of the incident —the singular fact that Plaintiff was holding a wooden board and refusing to drop it ‘is insufficient by any objective measure to justify the force deployed.’” The court concluded: “Concetti violated the Fourth Amendment in using deadly force against Penny.”

The court denied Concetti’s request to have the Fourth Amendment claim dismissed based on qualified immunity, a legal shield that protects police officers from civil liability if they violate a person’s civil rights.

“The court’s ruling sends a clear message to the LAPD: that its officers’ rampant, deadly violence against the city’s most vulnerable will not be tolerated,” said Shaleen Shanbhag, partner at Hadsell Stormer.

The court’s decision means that Mr. Penny has proved Concetti’s liability. A jury will only have to decide the amount of damages to award Mr. Penny for Concetti’s unconstitutional conduct. The case will proceed to trial on the merits of Plaintiff’s claims against the City of Los Angeles, Chief Moore, and five other LAPD officers, including the officers who used a Taser, beanbag shotgun, and 40-millimeter shotgun against him. Plaintiff seeks $3,000,000 plus punitive damages.

“There were thirteen heavily armed officers, including two sergeants, present. The officer’s decision to use lethal force flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, police training, good judgment and common sense. The situation spiraled out of control because of the fear-based tactics of the police,” said Dan Stormer, founding partner at Hadsell Stormer. “There was simply no justification for Concetti’s decision to shoot, or for any other officer’s force against Mr. Penny that day.”

In July 2020, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, the LAPD’s governing body, determined that Concetti’s decision to shoot Mr. Penny was out of LAPD Policy. Despite this finding, Chief Moore imposed the lowest level of discipline on Concetti.

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