LOS ANGELES (CN) - An Inglewood police officer shot down two innocent and unarmed men, without warning or questions and without identifying himself, the men say in Federal Court.
Thirty-five-year-old Robert Pickett, of Los Angeles, and Darryl Lewis, 39, of Gardena, say they spent the day grilling burgers with friends and were picking up some dumbbells and checking on one of Pickett's cousins after midnight on May 24, 2011, when Officer Mike Bolliger pulled up and came out shooting.
Pickett says Bollinger "parked his car at the corner, got out armed with his shotgun cocked, loaded and ready to fire" and shot them.
"No questions asked, no weapons seen, no words offered or exchanged. Defendant Bollinger blasted three shotgun rounds at the hapless and unarmed plaintiffs, striking them and wounding them as they sought to take cover from assault, leaving them in critical condition, bleeding face-down on the ground," Pickett says in the Dec. 3 complaint.
The men say Bollinger was responding with no partner or backup to a report of a home invasion robbery by two black men who might be armed with handguns, at the apartment complex where Pickett's cousin lived. The "sketchy information" about the robbers said only that they were black men, according to the complaint. Lewis stood by the security gate at the front of the apartment complex, smoking a cigarette, while Pickett punched in the pass code and said he was going to see his cousin.
Then, "Without warning, without investigation, without knowledge of who was in the area, of who the suspects were or what they looked like, and in violation of all training and standard police protocol, [Bollinger] approached the apartment gate and immediately shot Mr. Lewis and Mr. Pickett," the complaint states.
Pickett, a handyman who has a son and was engaged to be married at the time, suffered seven gunshot wounds, including one to his head.
Lewis, a husband and father of four, was shot once in the back and three times in the legs.
After other officers arrived and handcuffed them, the men say, "It became apparent that the wrong men had been shot as a result of Bolliger's rash, reckless and life-endangering conduct."
Though they lay bleeding and handcuffed, "in critical condition," the men say, the officers "set out to cover up the shooting of these two innocent, unarmed men."
To top it off, they say, "While driving with reckless abandon to the scene, they ran over a pedestrian, in a cross walk, killing her."
Below, plaintiff Robert Pickett speaks about the incident on a legal affairs podcast hosted by Ian Wallach. The interview begins at 18:07.
Pickett and Lewis sued four other officers, in addition to Bolliger and the city.
The cover-up was a bogus story that Lewis and/or Pickett had pointed guns at Bolliger, according to the complaint. "The problem for defendant Bolliger and the rest of defendant police officers was that neither plaintiff was armed; neither possessed a weapon of any kind. Likewise, neither plaintiff was in possession of any of the stolen items supposedly taken by the suspect in the robbery," the complaint states.
Nor did the people who reported the home invasion identify them as the robbers, the men say. They claim that the first photos taken of the scene where they were shot "do not show any weapon nor any of the stolen items. Some of the responding officers to the scene failed to see any weapons purportedly belonging to either plaintiff. Somehow, however, two handguns appeared and stolen items appeared as well. It was determined by subsequent forensic analysis before plaintiffs' criminal trial, that neither plaintiff was in any way connected physically with the weapons or the items."
The men say it took nearly an hour for them to receive medical attention, and that when paramedics did arrive, "Bolliger refused to let them tend to the critically wounded plaintiffs."
Pickett says Bolliger told him that "he did not give a f*** that he had shot him in the head."
Bollinger and the other officers staged a crime scene to conform to their story, arrested them on false charges, including murder of the pedestrian killed by the police car, attempted murder of Bollinger, and carrying loaded firearms, according to the complaint.
The officers also "conducted tainted six-pack lineups in an effort to get the purported robbery victims to identify (them)," falsified reports and gave false testimony against them, the men say.
Pickett and Lewis say they spent a year in jail awaiting trial and throughout a jury trial that started in December 2013 and eventually exonerated them.
They seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, unreasonable and excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and failure to intervene, train, supervise and discipline.
Also named as defendants are Inglewood police Officers Navid Khansari, Joe Lisardi, Michael Han and Jack Aranda.
Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts did not respond to an email request for comment and was not available by telephone Monday night.
Pickett and Lewis' attorney, Raymond Boucher, could not be reached by telephone Monday.
This story was originally published by Courthouse News.
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