City of Long Beach Denies Liability in Shooting of Man on Freeway Last Year

Long Beach, CA

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The city of Long Beach today denied liability in the shooting last year of a man who was shot and killed by California Highway Patrol officers on the Long Beach (710) Freeway after allegedly refusing to drop a knife.

The family of Ruben Escarrega, 31, of Long Beach, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against the city and state in Los Angeles federal court.

Escarrega was shot at about 11:30 p.m. on May 7, 2020, after police were called on reports of a man walking in the northbound lanes of the Long Beach Freeway just south of the San Diego (405) Freeway, according to a CHP statement at the time of the death.

The lawsuit alleging civil rights violations was filed in Los Angeles federal court, seeking unspecified damages on behalf of Escarrega's mother and minor son.

Although Long Beach is a named defendant, along with the CHP, the lawsuit is unclear about the city's alleged liability.

Howard D. Russell, the city's principal deputy city attorney, said Long Beach “denies any liability and contends that all Long Beach Police Department officers acted lawfully and reasonably.''

Russell said he could not comment on the facts of the case, but pointed out that in the complaint, the plaintiffs allege CHP officers, not Long Beach police officers, shot Escarrega.

Dale Galipo, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Escarrega family, could not be reached for comment.

Fran Clader, the CHP's director of communications, said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiffs filed claims for damages with the city and state late last year, but both claims were rejected. The subsequent lawsuit was then filed in May in Superior Court and moved by the city of Long Beach to federal court Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials said shortly after the shooting that Escarrega was holding a large knife and refused to drop it.

“CHP personnel used less lethal force in an attempt to subdue the pedestrian, who refused to drop the knife. The pedestrian charged CHP personnel in an aggressive manner with the knife, and an officer-involved shooting occurred,'' the CHP statement said.

Paramedics took Escarrega to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

However, Escarrega's family members allege he posed no immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone. They also contend officers waited too long to provide medical care.

“The delay of medical care was a contributing cause of Mr. Escarrega's death,'' according to the plaintiffs.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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