An Encino lawyer said Tuesday he intends to appeal the Los Angeles Superior Court’s March 28 dismissal of his multimillion-dollar lawsuit charging that negligence by police officers played a part in the 2009 slaying of a Mid-Wilshire woman by her estranged boyfriend.
Bruce Wernik, the lead attorney in the case, filed the suit on behalf of the 6-year-old daughter of Flor Medrano, who was stabbed in her Cochran Avenue apartment on Nov. 11, 2009.
The court dismissed the case, disagreeing with the lawsuit’s assertions that police officers’ actions and inactions put Medrano at risk.
According to court documents, Medrano first contacted police officers early in the evening of Nov. 11, 2009. The 30-year-old woman told them her estranged boyfriend, Carlon, raped her the previous night and threatened her.
Medrano went to the police station, a mile from her home, and for the next several hours reported threats made by Carlon, 23. At one point during Medrano’s meeting with officers, Carlon sent her a text message stating he was in her apartment and about to set fire to her possessions, according to court documents.
A detective and two police officers reportedly went to Medrano’s apartment, where they found no sign of Carlon or a fire.
Police officers reportedly encouraged Medrano to obtain a restraining order against Carlon, and suggested she spend the night either at a women’s shelter or in the lobby of the police station. Medrano reportedly said her daughter was with relatives, her apartment had a locking, metal security door and she felt safe going home.
Officers Tony Im and Hugo Fuentes reportedly followed Medrano home, where they parked their unmarked police cruiser within view of Medrano’s front door, believing they’d be able to detain Carlon if he showed up. What happened next figured heavily in Wernik’s lawsuit.
The officers did not “clear” Medrano’s apartment. That is, they did not do a walk-through inspection to ensure no one was inside, despite a reported direction by a lieutenant at the Wilshire station to do so. An investigation would later reveal Carlon had climbed on the roof of the building and broken into Medrano’s apartment through a bathroom window. When Medrano went inside her apartment, Carlon was apparently already there.
Wernik argued that had the officers checked the apartment, Medrano would likely still be alive. The officers claimed they stayed in their car in the hope that if Carlon was nearby, he would not see them first and potentially flee.
“They didn’t check the apartment because she didn’t want them anywhere near,” said Deputy City Attorney Kelly Kades, of the City Attorney’s Police Litigation. “She told them that.”
Nearly an hour and a half passed before Fuentes reportedly made several calls to Medrano to check on her. The first five were disconnected, and on the sixth Fuentes reportedly heard screams.
Im reportedly ran up two flights of stairs to Medrano’s apartment, where he found the front door locked. Looking into the apartment through a window, he saw Medrano come into the living room with blood on her shirt, followed by Carlon who was brandishing a knife, according to court documents.
Im, a 12-year LAPD veteran, called out to Carlon to stop, according to the report. Carlon then stabbed Medrano again, at which point she reportedly fell to the floor and Im put his pistol to the window and fired a shot, hitting Carlon in the chest.
Medrano reportedly tried, but was too weak to unlock the door to the apartment. Responding police officers were eventually able to use a pry bar to open the door. Medrano had several stab wounds, and Carlon, in addition to the gunshot wound, had an apparently self-inflicted stab wound, according to reports. Medrano and Carlon were pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The $3.8 million civil suit centered on a claim that the police officers involved created a “special relationship” that compromised Medrano.
There are three elements to a so-called special relationship, Kades said.
First, there is an affirmative action by an officer that increases a person’s risk of harm. Second is an officer’s failure to act after a promise to act, and third is detrimental reliance, which Kades defined as voluntarily aiding a person or taking steps that lull a person into a false sense of security.
“It’s a very difficult area of the law,” Wernik said. “We do not agree with what the judge did. … I’m there for the long run. This is about a little girl who lost her mother.”
Wernik said Medrano’s daughter lives with her father, and they have since left the Los Angeles area.
Wernik said he hopes to see a positive outcome to the appeal.
“Our case is a good case,” he said. “This wouldn’t have happened if it was a Beverly Hills socialite.”
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