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Cops Face Civil Suit in Killing of Korean American Artist

New America Media, News Report, Text and Photographs by Kenneth Kim Posted: Jul 03, 2008

LOS ANGELES The parents of a Korean American man shot dead by La Habra police officers filed a civil suit Wednesday morning against the City of La Habra and the officers.

Last week, the Orange County District Attorneys office declined to file criminal charges against the officers involved in the death of Michael Cho, 25, of La Habra, ruling the killing a justifiable homicide. By law, their identities have not been made public.

Michael Cho CaseBut in a suit filed in Orange County Superior Court, Central Justice Center, Chos parents, Sungman Cho and Honglan Cho, claim that the officers violated their sons civil rights when they shot and killed him last New Years Eve during a confrontation that followed the officers attempt to apprehend him on vandalism charges.

The plaintiffs are represented by Geragos & Geragos, a law firm which is known for handling high profile cases such as Michael Jackson in his child molestation case, Scott Peterson who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife, and Brent R. Wilkes, accused of bribing former Air Force ace and Republican Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe).

The life of a young man who was in the prime of his life was cut down with 11 shots and bullets. Its in essence a murder for nothing, said Mark Geragos during a press conference in the lobby of his downtown office which was crowded with reporters, TV cameramen and Chos supporters. If it were you and me or any civilian who had pulled the trigger, you would be behind bars right now with no bail.

The Cho family and its supporters claim the authorities investigation was perfunctory. They say that the authorities launched the investigation with the aim of justifying the shooting rather than focusing on whether the use of a deadly weapon was the only option available. The suit calls for an unspecified amount in damages.

The lawsuit is not about money because no (amount of) money will ever bring my son back to life, said Chos father Sungman Cho. I want to find out the truth behind my sons undeserved death.
Michael Cho Case

Michael Cho, a graduate of UCLAs art program who was hoping to attend graduate school at Yale this fall, was shot and killed on the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2007 in La Habra, a small bedroom town about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The Orange County District Attorneys office concluded last Thursday that the officers fired on Michael Cho because he was armed with a tire iron and was attacking one of the officers, ignoring repeated orders from the officers to drop the weapon.

Unlike the district attorneys criminal investigation which attempts to determine whether the officers used deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, the civil case focuses on broader issues that were outside the DAs jurisdiction, such as whether the shooting was within the departments standard policy, whether the officers received sufficient training and if the use of deadly force was reasonable or excessive.

To minimize possible injury to everyone involved, including suspects and police officers, the La Habra Police Department provides officers with equipment and training. In addition to basic training courses and continued professional trainings, its officers complete regular firearms training and re-familiarization training with patrol rifles and beanbag shotguns.

According to legal experts, the standard for proof of guilt is considerably lower in a civil case if it goes to a jury trial. In a criminal trial, a conviction requires a finding by all 12 jurors to convict a suspect. In a civil case, however, the conviction requires the votes of only nine of 12 jurors.

The officers returned to duty before the criminal investigation was concluded. La Habra City officials could not be immediately reached for comments for this article.

Related Articles:

DA Refuses to Charge Officers in Cho Case

Gone In 41 Seconds -- Police Quick to Kill Korean Artist

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