$5.4 Million Settlement In Colton Police Officers’ Shooting Death Of Father Of 3

Short of going to trial, officials with the City of Colton have agreed to pay $5.4 million to the family of an unarmed man who was shot to death by Colton police officers Bryan Acevedo and Gregory Castillo in 2016.
Christian Vargas, then 25, was the passenger in a stolen vehicle driven by Joseph Carter, then 32, in the early evening of September 12, 2016. A police pursuit ensued after one of the officers spotted the car around 5:30 p.m. Carter took evasive action when an effort to pull him over was made, but he was unable to ditch the pursuing officers, as more and more officers joined the chase.
Carter had apparently given up on his attempt to flee when he was surrounded by multiple police cars near Washington High School. He stopped the car he was driving  in the 900 block of East C Street. As he was parking, the car lurched forward, hitting a patrol car. In turn, the patrol car impacted a police officer, at which point both Acevedo and Castillo began discharging their service firearms at Carter. Vargas was hit, wounded fatally.
Vargas’ wife, Alicia Guzman, retained the law firm of Douglas Hicks to represent her and the three children she had with Vargas.
Douglas Hicks consists of Carl Douglas, one of O.J. Simpson’s attorneys during his 1995 murder trial, and Jamon Hicks.
Douglas Hicks filed suit on behalf of the plaintiffs against the defendants in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on September 13, 2017. Motions on the case were heard by Judge Kenly Kiya Kato, while the matter was scheduled to go to trial before Judge Jesus Bernal.
The City of Colton, Acevedo and Castillo were represented by the law firm of Manning & Kass Ellrod, Ramirez Trestor LLP and its attorneys Eugene Ramirez, Angela Powell and Michael Watts.
Rather than settle with Guzman and the children early on at a figure of less than $3 million, Ramirez, Powell and Watts sought to make an issue of Vargas’s culpability in the circumstances that led to his death. Ultimately, Carter pleaded guilty to felony evading, assault with a deadly weapon and receiving stolen property, and was given a seven year-and-eight month prison sentence. Establishing the deceased Guzman’s knowledge of the car theft or involvement in what occurred beyond his having been a passenger in the vehicle did not pan out for the city.
Judge Kato on April 18, 2018 granted a protective order filed by city on April 17, 2018, which has made it difficult over the years to ascertain where the city stood in relation to Hicks’ and Douglas’s contention that Vargas was an innocent party who was killed because of Acevedo’s and Castillo’s panicked and intemperate reactions.
Last week, after months of on-again, off-again confidential mediation, the city agreed to a $5.4 million payment to Guzman and her children.

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