WILSHIRE BLVD — The family of a Los Angeles man who was shot and killed nearly three years ago by Santa Monica Police during a brief pursuit has received a $250,000 settlement from a wrongful death lawsuit filed against City Hall.
The settlement, approved by the City Council earlier this month, concludes a two-year battle by the family of Christopher Lamont Hunter to hold the Santa Monica Police Department accountable in the 21-year-old man’s death during the early morning hours of Sept. 4, 2006.
Armed with a hand gun, Hunter was killed near a parking lot on Wilshire Boulevard after fleeing from police, fatally shot when he reportedly turned toward officers with the weapon.
Police responded to the area after they had received a report of a fight that had broken out at Club 20/20, learning from a patron that a man at the location was carrying a gun.
When officers attempted to question the suspect — Hunter — he jumped in his car and drove away, authorities said at the time. During the pursuit, the suspect drove south on 21st Street just off Wilshire Boulevard, and tried to pull into a parking lot where he was blocked by a chain-link fence. He then reportedly jumped out of his car and tried to run away on foot. When officers ordered him to stop, the man allegedly turned toward the police, who then saw the gun in the suspect’s hands and fired. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hunter’s family filed a wrongful death claim about eight months after the shooting. The case was set to go to trial on April 20. An attorney for the family did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Club 20/20, so-called because of its location at 2020 Wilshire Blvd., has closed since the shooting and today is the V-Lounge.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has investigated the shooting and found that the officers acted in lawful self defense and defense of others, said Deputy City Attorney Carol Ann Rohr.
“The city believes that the officers’ actions were justified because they shot at Christopher Hunter who was armed with a semi-automatic pistol and was turning toward them,” Rohr said on Monday, adding that the settlement is not an admission of guilt on part of the police department.
She added that the cost of going to trial for City Hall would be extremely expensive in such cases. City Hall had already spent about $80,000 preparing for the case and might have needed up to another $100,000 for other costs, including expert depositions.
Rohr noted that jury trial results can be unpredictable.
“This was a predictable way to have closure for everybody,” she said.