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Jury finds ex-LAPD officer liable in 2008 killing

January 24, 2011 |  5:00 pm

A former Los Angeles Police Department officer, fired from the department for dishonesty, was wrong to kill a man in a 2008 shooting, a federal jury concluded Monday.

In returning a unanimous verdict against the ex-officer, Joseph Cruz, and the city of Los Angeles, the jury rejected Cruz’s account of the shooting. Cruz has insisted that Mohammad Usman Chaudhry tried to attack him with a knife on a Hollywood street and that he fired his gun in self-defense. 

The jury will hear arguments beginning Tuesday in the damages phase of the trial to decide what monetary award, if any, Chaudhry’s family deserves.

The jury announced its decision after more than a day of deliberations. It found that Cruz used excessive force in the shooting and that he had acted in “a reckless, oppressive or malicious manner.”

At the time of the March 2008 shooting, Cruz was under investigation for an incident in which he allowed a teenage girl to escape his custody. Police officials concluded that Cruz had made false statements to investigators during the inquiry and fired him for dishonesty.

When Cruz filed a lawsuit to be reinstated, lawyers from the L.A. city attorney’s office filed court records in which it concluded that Cruz was without credibility. In the Chaudhry case, however, both the LAPD and city attorney’s office helped defend Cruz and vouched to the jury that his account of the shooting should be believed.

A spokesperson for city attorney’s office declined to comment.


L.A. defends officer who was fired for dishonesty

-- Joel Rubin