Jury: Anaheim Officer Did Not Use Excessive Force in Shooting

An Anaheim police officer did not use excessive force when he shot and killed an unarmed resident in 2012, a federal jury found Thursday.

The verdict, reached after just two hours of deliberation, capped a week-long civil trial over the shooting of Manuel Diaz in the Anna Drive neighborhood.

On the afternoon of July 21, 2012, officer Nick Bennallack shot Diaz in the back of the head and buttocks while chasing him through an alleyway.

The lawsuit was filed by Diaz’s mother, Genevieve Huizar, who said officers violated her son’s constitutional rights.

The city argued that Bennallack had a reasonable fear for his life, saying the neighborhood was dangerous and Diaz was starting to turn towards officers.

Huizar’s attorneys, meanwhile, argued that the city dramatically overhyped the neighborhood’s danger and that Diaz posed no reasonable threat.

Diaz’s killing was among several Anaheim police shootings in 2012 that drew intense anger from residents and ultimately led to downtown rioting.

Following the verdict, Anaheim City Attorney Michael Houston said the jury came to a “conclusion that’s not just good for the city but good for the community.”

“No one” wants to take someone’s life, he said.

Huizar said police “took something from me I will never get back” and vowed to appeal the ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We’re disappointed but we’re not broken,” she said.

The jury was told to base their decision on what Bennallack knew at the time of the shooting, and jury foreman Mark Ross said he and his fellow jurors believed Bennallack’s statements that he was in fear for his life.

After Thursday’s verdict announcement, a small group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse, carrying signs against police shootings.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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