January 09, 2009

patshelleyA memorial service was held Wednesday commemorating the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of a man by La Habra police officers who said he was wielding a tire iron. Michael Sungman Cho, 25, was shot on the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2007, outside a liquor store near Whittier Boulevard and Walnut Avenue.

In June, the District Attorney's Office cleared officers Pete DiPasqua and John Jaime, saying their actions were legal. Jaime was shot and wounded during a 2005 traffic stop and recovered. The following month, Cho's parents filed a civil suit against the city and officers claiming wrongful death and negligence. The civil trial is set for January 2010.

The names of the two officers were not released immediately after the shooting and not added to the civil suit until September 9, 2008 [when the U.S. District Court issued on order naming officer Pete DiPasqua and officer John Jaime in the civil suit.]

"It was an issue to me that they did not release their names right away," [Shelley] Kaufman of [Geragos & Geragos] said. "The fact that they did not disclose their names is further evidence that they did not, and continued to not, act appropriately after the shooting."

Bruce Praet, the attorney representing the city and the officers, said not releasing officers' names after an officer-involved shooting is common practice.

"It's pretty standard under California law and in law enforcement that names are not released during the initial period of investigation," Praet said. "It was a very tragic, but justified shooting ... there is no evidence that there is wrongdoing on the part of the officers."

Praet said the two officers were not involved in the Dec. 21 incident in an unincorporated county section of La Habra where police and sheriff's deputies shot and killed Jerry Nadine Lunceford, 70, after she came out of her home armed with a gun and ignored repeated orders to put it down. That shooting is still under investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

On the day of the Cho shooting, police were responding to a complaint about a man vandalizing cars near the store and a witness pointed out Cho as the man responsible.

Cho was holding a tire iron in his hand and police ordered him to drop the weapon. After ignoring multiple requests, turning from the officers twice and allegedly making a motion as if to attack one of the officers, the police shot Cho 11 times, officials with the Orange County District Attorney's Office have said.

The prosecutors only investigate whether the officers committed a crime, not if their actions followed protocol or if excessive force was used.

Wednesday's 40-minute memorial, which was attended by Honglan Cho, Michael's mother, and about 50 friends and family members, took place at the site of the incident and began at the time - 2 p.m. - when the shooting took place.

To read other articles featuring the attorneys of Geragos & Geragos, please click here .