Inglewood, CA – Five former Inglewood police officers, who were fired in the wake of a 2016 officer-involved shooting of an armed, intoxicated couple in a car, are suing the city for allegedly discriminating against them because they are white.
In the lawsuit, the former officers argued that they were following the orders of at least two experienced sergeants at the scene – both of whom are Latino, and neither of whom were fired, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“My question is why the commanding officers at the scene…are still serving the Police Department and five young, white officers who were in harm’s way and acting in conformity with the orders given to them were fired,” their attorney, Zorik Mooradian, told the paper.
Former Inglewood Police Officers Richard Parcella, Sean Reidy, Andrew Cohen, Michael Jaen, and Jason Cantrell filed the 31-page lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 21, KNBC reported.
In May of 2017, Inglewood Mayor James Butts announced that the five officers were no longer working for the department.
The lawsuit said they were fired by the city, and laid out the ex-officers’ detailed account of what occurred on the day of the officer-involved shooting.
The incident began at approximately 3:10 a.m. on Feb. 21, 2016, after police received a report that a vehicle was idling in the middle of the intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue.
Police approached the vehicle, and found 32-year-old Marquintan Sandlin and 31-year-old Misha Michael unresponsive inside.
Michael had a loaded semiautomatic handgun lying in her lap, which was seen by all five plaintiffs and many of their colleagues – including the two Latino police sergeants, the lawsuit said.
Over the course of the next 40 minutes, the officers tried to wake the couple up, the Los Angeles Times reported
One officer knocked on the window. A sergeant tried the doors, but they were all locked.
Another sergeant at the scene was also a member of the SWAT team, and had 17 years of law enforcement experience. He told one of the officers to activate his patrol car’s lights and sirens to try to wake the couple.
When that didn’t work, he told the officer to bump the suspects’ vehicle with the cruiser.
Other officers tried yelling commands at the pair.
Just as department officials were considering dispatching the SWAT team to the scene, one of the sergeants was able to awake Sandlin using the public address system.
He ordered the couple to put their hands in the air, but Sandlin instead accelerated, slamming into the patrol car parked in front of him. He then reversed and collided with the patrol vehicle behind him.
Sandlin then reached “right toward the weapon” in Michael’s lap, KNBC reported.
Officer Parcella fired two rounds from his shotgun, striking Sandlin both times, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A moment later, Michael opened the passenger door and began reaching towards her lap.
“[She reached] directly to the position where the gun was located between her legs [and] all five officers perceived a threat to themselves or other officers and legally discharged their weapons," the lawsuit read, according to KNBC.
Michael died at the scene, and Sandlin later succumbed to his gunshot wounds.
Autopsy reports showed that Michael, a mother of three, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 at the time of her death, the Los Angeles Times reported.
She also had methamphetamine in her system.
Sandlin, a father of four, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 at the time of his death.
The only officers involved in the shooting who were fired by the city were those who were white, according to the lawsuit.