California Family Awarded $4.5 Million in Wrongful Death Settlement

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After a case of mistaken identity led to the 2011 shooting death of a 31-year-old Downey man, the city’s insurers have settled with the family for $4.5 million.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the municipal insurers for the city of Downey, California, have reached a settlement with the family of Michael Nida. On October 22, 2011, Nida was mistaken for a suspect in an armed robbery, which had occurred at a nearby Bank of America ATM and was fatally shot in the back by a Downey police officer with a submachine gun.

Nida had been out with his wife, getting gasoline, when he crossed Imperial Highway to buy cigarettes at a tobacco shop. When he emerged from the shop, he was detained and questioned regarding the robbery by police who had seen him running across the highway.

The suspects in the armed robbery had been described as black males wearing dark clothing. Nida was an unarmed, Puerto Rican and white man.

According to the Los Angeles Times, prosecutor Stephanie Sparagna presented last fall to the court that Nida had resisted arrest repeatedly, ran from police three times and ignored warnings from the officers. The report from the prosecutor stated that Nida had initially had cooperated, but then “suddenly and inexplicably” ran away.

Two officers reported that Nida was detained in an alley behind a nearby Walgreens and ordered to show his hands. When he refused, Officer Steven Gilley believed he was armed and dangerous, and fired one three-round burst that killed Nida on the spot.

Gilley was not criminally charged with Nida’s death, as prosecutors found that the officer had acted legally due to Nida’s resistance and running. Over the last year, according to the Los Angeles Times, Nida’s family has formed a group called Nida’s Ryders and protested regularly at City Hall. The $4.5 million settlement was offered to avoid a pending wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit filed by the family. Surviving Nida are his wife and four young children.

If you or someone you love is considering a wrongful death lawsuit, contact Melinda Helbock, an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer who has successfully represented bereaved clients in wrongful death and personal injury litigation. Ms. Helbock may be able to help you with your case.

*Please note: Melinda Helbock did not represent the family in this case.