The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved nearly $50 million in settlements of litigation stemming from allegations of misconduct or excessive force by sheriff’s deputies, including one described by an attorney as the largest in the county’s history.
The board approved settlements Tuesday, Nov. 1, in five cases, with the largest totaling $16.5 million for a man who was shot by a sheriff’s deputy inside the bedroom of his family’s home in Malibu in 2019, leaving him a paraplegic.
Timothy Neal‘s attorney, Paul R. Kiesel, said his client is a graduate of Harvard University but has struggled with schizophrenia since being diagnosed in 2018. Kiesel said Neal — son of state appellate court Justice Richard Neal — was in the “throes of paranoid schizophrenia” when deputies forced their way into his bedroom. Kiesel said Neal was shot in the back while trying to run from deputies, and he will now require the use of a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“Tim Neal’s settlement with the county of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department needs to be a wake-up call for how law enforcement responds to mental health crises,” Kiesel said in a statement.
In 2020, the District Attorney’s Office determined that the deputies involved in the shooting “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others.” According to the report, Neal’s mother initially called police on July 25, 2019, and said her son was having a mental issue and tried to kill her. Responding deputies made contact with Neal for several hours, but he refused to exit his bedroom, and deputies left when his mother declined to pursue any prosecution of her son. She called deputies again the following morning asking if they could remove her son from the residence. Deputies forced their way into the bedroom, and found Neal holding two large kitchen knives, which he refused to drop despite orders from deputies, one of whom unsuccessfully deployed a Taser, according to the district attorney’s report. Neal then began to run toward the kitchen, moving closer to the deputies, three of whom opened fire. Neal was struck once in the upper back near his shoulder blade, according to the district attorney’s report.
In a statement released by Kiesel following the county board vote, Neal said, “I hope this terrible event that has cost me the use of my lower body brings about long overdue changes in how law enforcement addresses mental health crises; not as a crime but as an illness. My mom just wanted me to get help and I ended up in a wheelchair. I only pray the county learns from this tragedy and prevents something like this from ever happening to others.”
Before voting for the settlements, Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell lamented the nearly $50 million being paid out due to allegations of wrongful death, excessive force and other misconduct by sheriff’s deputies.
“I think this is unacceptable,” Mitchell said. “We need to understand ways to eliminate the high costs of litigation in the sheriff’s department and ensure corrective action plans are developed by this department and all departments, and they result in meaningful change.”
Among the other settlements approved Tuesday was a $16.2 million payment for relatives of Eric Briceno, who died after a violent struggle with sheriff’s deputies in Maywood in 2020, also after family members reported he was having a mental health crisis. Meanwhile, the county also agreed to pay $8 million to relatives of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was shot multiple times by a deputy in 2020 near Gardena.