Family of man killed by Manhattan Beach police sues city
It isn’t clear what Ferreol Cardenas, Jr. was doing on Rosecrans Avenue a little before 9 p.m. on a Thursday in 2014.
Cardenas, Jr., 32, didn’t live or work in the South Bay. In fact, he didn’t have a job; a drive-by shooting had left him disabled, according to his family’s attorney.
But the fact that he died of injuries inflicted by two Manhattan Beach police officers on the night of April 10, 2014 isn’t disputed.
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The Los Angeles County coroner labeled his death a homicide due to head trauma.
His family is suing the city of Manhattan Beach and the two officers in federal court, alleging wrongful death and police negligence, among other things.
In its response to the complaint, the city has said that the force used was reasonable and that Cardenas, Jr.’s death was caused by his “wrongful acts and conduct and the willful resistance to a peace officer in the discharge [of] their duties.”
A Manhattan Beach Police spokesperson declined to comment, saying that the department doesn’t discuss lawsuits, and referred a reporter to the city attorney’s office. An email and phone call to the city attorney weren’t answered.
Cardenas, Jr.’s sister, who answered at an address listed for the family in the Florence-Graham neighborhood of Los Angeles, declined to talk.
“We don’t have any witnesses,” said Peter Williamson, the family’s attorney. “We have to rely to some degree on what the officers say happened. Obviously, the injuries speak for themselves.”
Williamson, who didn’t speak to Cardenas, Jr. before he died, said he used the crime investigation report given by the officers to outline the events in the lawsuit.
Since 2003, Cardenas, Jr. had been in jail at least four times, according to court documents. Twice he served time for possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia; once for petty theft. At the time of his death, he appeared to have been on probation for the drug paraphernalia violation.
According to the lawsuit, Cardenas, Jr., was driving west on Rosecrans Avenue when Officer Michael Lynch, driving a marked patrol car, noticed that Cardenas’s car was missing a license plate. Cardenas’s car switched lanes quickly, the complaint said, almost striking the police car. Lynch turned on his lights and signaled for Cardenas to pull over.
Cardenas kept driving past Aviation Boulevard and then pulled into a driveway just after the building that houses Paul Martin’s American Grill.
Near the end of the driveway, Cardenas stopped the car, got out and took off running, according to the lawsuit.
Lynch followed him on foot, ordering him to stop and lay on the ground multiple times. Eventually, Cardenas stopped running. He put his left arm by his side and his right arm in front of his waistband and then started walking north. Lynch told Cardenas that he would tase him if he didn’t stop walking. When Lynch was three feet away from Cardenas, the lawsuit says, he discharged the Taser. Cardenas’s body became rigid and fell to the ground, though he didn’t hit his head, the complaint notes. Cardenas sat up with his knees bent and feet on the ground.
Around this time, another officer, Brandon Muzatko, arrived as backup.
“Without further resistance by Decedent, Defendants Lynch and Muzatko forcibly pushed Decedent onto his stomach, and forcibly took control of his arms,” said the lawsuit. “In the process of restraining Decedent, who was unarmed and non-resistant, Defendants and each of them physically assaulted and battered the Decedent repeatedly striking him in the head, face and body with their fists and, as yet, unknown other instruments, causing him to suffer multiple skull fractures, facial injuries, brain injuries including subdural hemorrhages, and other serious, life-threatening injuries.”
Cardenas was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, where he was treated for head trauma, among other things, and was released five days later on April 15, 2014.
“From what I’ve been told by the family members, he was not in the mood or position to talk,” said Williamson. “They really didn’t suspect anything. He had a hemorrhage nobody could see and ultimately caused his death.”
Cardenas returned to the hospital on April 22, 2014, saying he had severe headaches and neck stiffness. Soon after arriving, he was put in the intensive care unit. He stopped being able to move his limbs or talk and was put on life support. He died on April 25, 2014.
On June 20, 2014, Cardenas’ parents, Ferreol Sr. and Rosa, filed a claim with the city. It was denied on September 23, 2014.
On March 1, 2015, almost a year after their son’s death, they filed the lawsuit.
According to Williamson, Ferreol Jr.’s cousin, who works for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, encouraged the couple to hire Williamson.
A trial has been scheduled for April 12. However, because of a pending investigation by the sheriff’s department, which the Manhattan Beach Police Department requested, it can’t move forward, according to Williamson. He said that the city told him there were no prior complaints about the two officers involved. ER