The parents of a 31-year-old man repeatedly shot and killed by police in a Santa Ana 7-Eleven parking lot in March 2018 are suing the City of Garden Grove and police sergeant Brian Dalton.
In a complaint filed this week in Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Ana and Luis Mora claim Dalton fired six shots through the window of a parked Toyota RAV-4, killing Erick Eduardo Mora Martinez, who was sitting in the driver’s seat.
Dalton’s shots struck Mora’s left temple, left cheek, upper and lower neck, and chest.
The 36-page wrongful death lawsuit alleges that Dalton committed numerous transgressions, including excessive force, battery, negligence and denial of timely emergency medical care.
According to the plaintiffs, an unarmed Mora obeyed commands to raise his hands and did not exhibit any real threat to the five present officers who’d boxed him in a parking space before the shooting.
But Dalton told investigators at the Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) that Mora “slammed his car in reverse,” struck one of his colleagues with an open car door and then revved the Toyota’s engine before he fired the shots.
In November, OCDA issued a report noting that police officers can use lethal force to defend themselves and observing “there is no evidence of criminal culpability on the part of Sergeant Dalton . . . whose actions were reasonable and justified under the circumstances.”
Dale K. Galipo, an attorney representing the parents, argued that Mora “never intentionally struck the involved officers’ vehicles or anyone else’s vehicles, with his car” and that it was Dalton’s barrage of gunfire that caused the decedent to lose control of the Toyota.
“The involved officers were not at risk of imminent or immediate death or serious bodily injury based on Mora’s actions,” stated Galipo, who also alleged that police waited to treat the wounds, conspired to concoct a false story to justify the killing and initiated “a blue code of silence” to maintain a coverup.
OCDA reported that the officers had been tracking Mora with a secretly placed GPS on the RAV-4 in hopes of catching him commit burglaries.
His rap sheet includes 13 arrests on charges ranging from vandalism, trespassing, drug possession, petty theft, burglary and assault on a peace officer, OCDA noted in the report.
An autopsy detected methamphetamines in Mora’s blood.
Attorneys for Garden Grove and Dalton have not yet filed a courthouse response.
U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton will preside over the lawsuit, which seeks $10 million in damages.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.