Expensive payouts stemming from shootings by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies continue to climb, with the Board of Supervisors yesterday approving nearly $5 million for the families of two men shot by deputies in separate incidents, the Los Angeles Times reports. In both 2014 incidents, deputies’ gunfire killed people and wounded unintended victims. Jose Hernandez, the victim of a knife attack, was mistakenly shot in the leg as lawmen fired 34 shots at another man wielding a blade. In the other case, Noel Aguilar was shot and killed just after a deputy inadvertently shot his fellow officer in the stomach as they struggled to hold Aguilar face-down on the ground.
The payments — $2 million to Hernandez and his son and $2.97 million to Aguilar’s family — come at a time of soaring deputy-related litigation costs at taxpayers’ expense. Last fiscal year, payouts to resolve legal claims tied to law enforcement actions cost the county nearly $51 million, a 65 percent jump from the previous year. The expenditures have climbed steadily over the last few years. In the fiscal year that ended in 2012, law enforcement-related payouts were $5.6 million. “The Sheriff’s Department has made great strides and improved training to assist with the de-escalation of critical situations that deputies face on a daily basis,” said spokeswoman Nicole Nishida. The Sheriff’s Department inspector general, Max Huntsman, said individual settlements rarely spur meaningful changes in how deputies are trained or respond to calls, but the cumulative effect of the settlements attract the attention of county supervisors and can fuel reform efforts. “The payouts keep the pressure up,” he said.