Mother of East L.A. man killed by deputies files lawsuit

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The mother of an 18-year-old man who was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy during an East Los Angeles traffic stop in 2019 is suing Los Angeles County and two deputies, alleging the shooting was unjustified and that her son feared the deputies were part of an internal gang.

Leah Garcia’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was brought Nov. 4 and names Deputies Hector Saavedra-Soto and Argelia Huerta as additional defendants. The suit alleges wrongful death, assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil rights violations.

Garcia seeks unspecified compensatory damages against the county and the deputies, plus punitive damages against the deputies.

In its May 2020 report finding that Saavedra-Soto acted in self-defense, the District Attorney’s Office stated that the deputies stopped a car in which Paul Rea was a passenger about 11 p.m. June 27, 2019, for running a stop sign. Huerta placed the driver, Tommy Sanchez — who also is a plaintiff in the suit — in the patrol car after searching him and finding a small canister of marijuana, the report states.

Saavedra-Soto ordered Rea out of the vehicle and escorted him to the patrol car, where he began to search him, the suit states. However, Rea broke free and punched Saavedra-Soto on the left side of his face, the report states. 

Saavedra-Soto grabbed Rea and placed him in a bear hug, at which time he felt the handle of a gun in Rea’s waistband, the report states.

After Rea looked at the deputy in a manner that suggested he wanted to kill him, Saavedra-Soto, fearing for his safety and that of his partner, acted reasonably by using deadly force and firing three to four shots, the report states. Another deputy later found a pistol in Rea’s right lower pant leg, according to the report.

But according to the suit, Rea knew that some East Los Angeles deputies allegedly belong to a subgroup called the Banditos that are known for corruption and who harass area residents. Rea’s death was a “cold-blooded shooting” that was “absolutely unjustified” and Garcia’s goal in filing the suit is to “show that the cowardly killing of Paul was a senseless and unwarranted act of police abuse,” according to the complaint.

Rea feared for his life after Saavedra-Soto approached the passenger side of Sanchez’s car and ordered him out of the car, so he began running and never struck the deputy, the suit states.

Saavedra-Soto was able to grab Rea and shot him as he was falling to the ground, according to the suit.

As a result of the county of Los Angeles’ failure to act, the Banditos gang was further emboldened and continued to encourage an environment of violence, corruption and fraud, all of which led to the constitutional violations and harms caused to decedent Paul Rea,” the suit states.

Paul Rea was running away from Saavedra-Soto at the time of the shooting,” the suit states. “Accordingly, the shooting and killing of Paul Rea was unjustified and this use of force was unwarranted and excessive under the circumstances.”

The suit also alleges Sanchez was unlawfully searched and unjustly arrested.

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