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$1.7 million awarded to family of man killed by LAPD officer

Photo: Mohammad Usman Chaudhry. Credit: Family photo/APEarlier this week, a federal jury found that an ex-LAPD officer was responsible for the wrongful death of an autistic man shot and killed in Hollywood in 2008. On Wednesday, the jury awarded the victim's family $1.7 million.

Joseph Cruz killed Mohammad Usman Chaudhry in March 2008, when Cruz and his partner encountered the 21-year-old autistic man lying in the bushes alongside a Hollywood apartment building.

Since the killing, Cruz has insisted that Chaudhry tried to attack him with a knife and that he fired his gun in self-defense. On Monday, however, after four days of testimony, the jury rejected Cruz’s account when it returned a unanimous verdict finding that the ex-officer had used excessive force and acted in “a reckless, oppressive or malicious manner” when he shot Chaudhry.

During the trial, lawyers for the Chaudhry family presented evidence aimed at putting doubt in the minds of the jurors over Cruz’s account. Testing on the knife that Cruz said Chaudhry had used, for example, found one person’s DNA profile on the handle and blade but showed that the DNA was not Chaudhry’s. Also, after Cruz said he had never met Chaudhry before the shooting, a man testified that he had been present on multiple occasions when Cruz confronted Chaudhry and called him by name.

After the verdict, the jury was asked to decide how much money, if any, to award Chaudhry’s parents. Attorneys representing Cruz and the city of Los Angeles had tried to limit the size of the award by arguing that Chaudhry had had a frayed relationship with his parents that lessened their suffering.

The verdict was at odds with the investigation done of the shooting by the Los Angeles Police Commission, which determined the use of lethal force was "in policy." What do you think of the different conclusions?

Joel Rubin has more on the case: Family of victim killed by since-fired LAPD officer awarded $1.7 million

Photo: Mohammad Usman Chaudhry. Credit: Family photo/AP

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