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LA, Police Officials Vow To Fight Nearly $6M Award To Convicted Felon

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — City officials say they plan to appeal the nearly $6 million jury award to a paralyzed gang member who was shot by police responding to a drive-by shooting.

Robert Contreras, 26, a known gang member, who pleaded no contest to attempted murder for his role in a drive-by shooting when he was 19, according to court records. While running from the police officers who were responding to the drive-by, Contreras was shot and left paralyzed from the chest down.

“I was running,” Contreras said. “And I got shot. That’s it.”

A federal jury awarded Contreras $5.7 million, to compensate him for injuries he suffered that night in September 2005.  It’s a jury award that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other city officials have vowed to fight.

“We have asked the city attorney to appeal this. We feel that the department’s position was not well represented in the trial,” Beck said.

Members of the Los Angeles City Council have sided with Beck on the issue.

“It doesn’t seem logical that you get arrested for a crime, get convicted, go to prison, and then come out and get $6 million,” Councilman Dennis Zine said.

According to court records, Contreras told an inmate while he was hospitalized after being paralyzed that he had a gun with him before the shooting began. The four alleged gang members who were with him also told detectives they were all armed.

When Contreras ran away from officers, he tossed his gun, turned around, and was shot by pursuing officers, according to court records. The gun was never found.

These were all facts that the judge wouldn’t allow the 8-person jury to hear.

“The judge made some outrageous decisions in excluding critical evidence that the jury needed to understand in order to asses this case,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said.

The LA city attorney advised the City Council to accept a $4.5-million settlement. Krekorian led the charge to reject the settlement.

The council voted 8-4 against settlement. Former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks was one of the votes in favor of settlement.

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