The city of Torrance has denied any liability for shooting up and ramming the car of a Redondo Beach surfer during the manhunt for fugitive cop killer Christopher Dorner.
In court documents filed Friday, the city denied all accusations leveled by David Perdue, 48, against its police officers. Perdue has filed suit against the city alleging he suffered a disabling concussion and spinal injuries on Feb. 7 when he was assaulted by officers on alert for Dorner and his pickup truck.
Torrance police officers thought they were confronting Dorner when they rammed Perdue's pickup truck with their cruiser, fired three gunshots through his windshield and forced him to lie spread-eagle on the ground.
The city, however, said Perdue's injuries were the result of his own "negligent or deliberate actions."
Attorneys for the city would not elaborate on how Perdue was negligent and declined to comment on other specifics of the case due to the ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
The city claims 38 "affirmative defenses" for the actions taken by the officers, according to the court document. Among them, the documents state, the officers acted "within the scope of discretion, with due care," the officers believed their actions "comported with all applicable federal and state laws," and that the plaintiff's factual allegations in his complaint differ from the facts in his written claim.
The city also alleges the officers can't be held liable for actions resulting "from an exercise of discretion vested in a public employee, whether or not such discretion be abused."
In one affirmative defense, the city claims that any detriment suffered by Perdue was "unavoidable."
Perdue's lawyer, Robert Sheahen, called the city's response "ridiculous."
"It is an absolute fantasy," Sheahen said. "He drove away after going through a police checkpoint. He showed them approved ID; he was going surfing. They told him the exact route to drive on and for them to say he was negligent is outrageous."
Perdue remained silent during a press conference Monday at his lawyers' office in Sherman Oaks. Sheahen said Perdue's injures have impaired his speech and that his usual "athlete's voice" is now not much more than a squeak.
Sheahen reiterated his demands that Perdue be compensated for his injuries.
"The city of Torrance alleges that it had the right to shoot at anybody who was driving a pickup truck that day," Sheahen said. "They said that David assumed the risk. That is palpable nonsense."
Sheahen and partner, Mark Melnick, said Perdue is demanding $4 million in damages -- roughly the same amount the Los Angeles Police Department paid to two newspaper carriers whom officers mistakenly fired on nearby during the Dorner manhunt. During recent mediation talks, they said, the city offered Perdue "a pittance."
"We went to mediation, we had a four- or five-hour mediation session," said Della Thompson-Bell, Torrance deputy city attorney. "There were definitely negotiations. But I can't comment further due to a confidentiality agreement reached during the mediation."
The confrontation came during a tense week for Southern California law enforcement. Dorner, a former Los Angeles police officer, released a manifesto in which he threatened retaliation against the family members of officers connected to his 2009 dismissal from the agency for an incident in San Pedro. He killed two cops, and the daughter and fiance of an LAPD officer during a shooting rampage that stretched across several counties and prompted one of the largest manhunts in California history.
Torrance and LAPD officers were protecting a home near Flagler Street of an official named in the manifesto, when two newspaper carriers turned down the street on Feb. 7. Their car was showered with as many 100 bullets fired by eight LAPD officers. The attack left a 71-year-old woman injured and the bullets narrowly missed her daughter.
The city of Los Angeles settled with the newspaper carriers, paying them $4.2 million and giving them $40,000 for a new truck.
Just before the hail of bullets rained down on the newspaper carriers, Perdue pulled onto Flagler and was stopped at a police checkpoint. He was rerouted by the officers, according to his lawsuit filed June 17, but his car was rammed by a police cruiser and two Torrance officers who have not been named fired into Perdue's truck.
According to the lawsuit, the officer had time to see that Perdue, a 5-foot-8, 155-pound white man, was not Dorner, a 6-foot-2 250-pound black man.