On July 12, 2018, a Federal jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the City of Long Beach and Long Beach Police Officer Matthew Hernandez, rejecting wrongful death claims of excessive force and negligence brought by the parents of Feras Morad.
“This was a tragic case for everyone involved,” said City Attorney Charles Parkin. “However, Officer Hernandez was forced to use deadly force as a last resort in a life-threatening situation and the jury found that he acted reasonably,” Mr. Parkin said.
On the evening of May 27, 2015, Officer Hernandez was dispatched to assist Long Beach Fire Department personnel who were responding to a 911 call that reported a man had fallen out of a second-story window; the caller also reported that the man was intoxicated and acting violently. Officer Hernandez arrived and was immediately confronted by 20-year-old Feras Morad, the subject of the 911 call. Officer Hernandez tried communicating with Morad, but Morad ignored the officer’s directions and commands and kept walking toward the officer in an aggressive manner. Officer Hernandez attempted to control Morad by using a Taser, which had no effect.
Officer Hernandez continued to try and gain control of Morad, but takedowns, an attempt to handcuff, another Taser use, and use of a flashlight strike all failed due to Morad’s resistance. When Morad briefly sat down, Officer Hernandez called for emergency back-up. Almost immediately afterwards, and well before back-up could arrive, Morad stood up and walked toward Officer Hernandez with clenched fists. Officer Hernandez repeatedly commanded Morad to “get down,” but Morad kept approaching. Hearing Morad say “I’m coming to get you,” and fearing that Morad would wrestle him to the ground and kill him with his own gun, Officer Hernandez fired four shots at Morad when Morad got to arm’s reach from the officer.
Morad’s family filed this federal case against the City and Officer Hernandez alleging that the force used was excessive and unreasonable and claiming that defendants were liable for Morad’s death. Attorneys for the City and Officer Hernandez argued that the force used was reasonable and necessary for the protection of the officers and citizens in the area, and that Officer Hernandez had no other option but to shoot.
The jury agreed. After nine days of testimony, the jury deliberated for approximately seven hours before returning the unanimous verdict in favor of defendants.
Deputy City Attorney Howard Russell handled the case for the City; attorneys Peter Ferguson and Kyle Bevan, of Ferguson Praet & Sherman, represented Officer Hernandez. Attorneys Dan Stormer, Joshua Piovia-Scott, and Brian Olney represented plaintiffs.