Anaheim settles for $2.9 million in police shooting that killed fleeing driver

By Sean Emery | | Orange County Register PUBLISHED: April 16, 2020 at 3:24 p.m. | UPDATED: April 16, 2020 at 3:24 p.m.

Anaheim Police Terminate Fleering Motorist
The Anaheim Police Department released the footage from the fatal Officer Involved Shooting of Eliuth Penaloza Nava on July 21, 2018. Click here to see video of shooting and pursuit

The city of Anaheim agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement for the family of a man who was shot and killed by police during a controversial 2018 car chase in which officers fired 76 gunshots in a busy residential neighborhood.

One officer was fired following the fatal shooting of Eliuth Nava Penaloza, with investigators with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office referring to police actions that day as “alarming and irresponsible,” and the city’s mayor describing it as disturbing.

U.S. District Judge David Carter has signed off on the $2.9 million settlement between the city of Anaheim and Penaloza’s family members, according to federal court records. Officials representing the city, and an attorney representing the family, confirmed Thursday that the settlement has been approved.

Any loss of life in our city is tragic, and our hearts go out to the family,” Anaheim Spokesman Mike Lyster said. “We hope this brings some closure.”

Jerry Steering, one of the attorney’s who represented the family, said his clients were satisfied by the outcome of the legal action, which he described as the largest pre-verdict settlement for a police-involved killing in Anaheim history.

Video footage from the officers body-worn cameras captured one of them firing dozens of rounds from a 9 mm handgun through the windshield of a patrol car during a brief pursuit that went through alleys and surface streets of a heavily populated Anaheim neighborhood on a Saturday morning.

“The (officers) know better – It looked like Bonnie and Clyde,” Steering said of the video footage. “Whatever danger (Penaloza) posed to the public that day was greatly exceeded by the dangers the police posed to the public.”

At about 9:45 a.m. on July 21, 2018, Officers Sean Staymates and Kevin Pedersen responded to a call from Penaloza’s parents, who lived with him at a home in the 500 block of South West Street. The parents told police Penaloza, who had a history of drug use, was acting strangely and appeared to have a knife and gun in his truck.

According to an Orange County District Attorney report, the officers arrived to find Penaloza sitting in the driver’s seat of his pickup truck. He drove off before the officers could block him in, according to the DA report, and held up what appeared to be “a black semi-automatic handgun, resembling a Glock,” which the officers said he pointed at them.

Pedersen fired the bulk of the gunshots during the pursuit, the video footage showed. He would later tell DA investigators that he feared Penaloza was going to shoot at them and “believed he was always aware of his surroundings and fired only after considering the safety of the nearby citizens.”

The chase ended minutes later, back in front of Penaloza’s parents home. Both officers fired multiple shots at him before approaching the vehicle and pulling him from the truck. The handgun brandished by Penaloza turned out to be an air pistol.

An autopsy determined that Penaloza was struck by at least nine bullets, and found amphetamines and methamphetamine in his system.

The DA report released in May 2019 sharply criticized the officers actions, but determined there wasn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against him. During a news conference the day of the reports release, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said that in that incident “we failed what we expect of ourselves and what the community demands of us.”

Pedersen, a probationary officer who had been with the department for about a year, was fired after the shooting.

The district attorney’s office and police previously referred to Penaloza as Eliuth Penaloza Nava. But he is referred to in court documents and his family’s attorney as Eliuth Nava Penaloza.

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