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Man mistakenly shot by L.B. police wins case

By Dorothy Korber – Staff Writer

July 25, 1992

$6.25 million civil award biggest in city’s history

LOS ANGELES — The city of Long Beach lost the biggest civil liability lawsuit in its history Friday when a jury awarded $6.25 million to a man who was mistakenly shot by police in 1988.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury also awarded another $500,000.00 to the victim’s wife for the loss of her husband’s companionship.

“The jury found for us on all counts – negligence, battery, and violation of my client’s civil rights,” said Brian Panish, who represented the shooting victim, Vanmalibhai Galal. “My client is very happy.”

Assistant City Attorney Robert Shannon said the huge award, which included no punitive damages, was the decision of a “runaway jury.”

“By that we mean that the verdict bears no relation to the extent of the damage in this case,” he said Friday.

The shooting occurred at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, 1988.

Officer Gregory Allison, who was chasing a man with a gun down a dark walkway, came upon Galal as the 59-year-old hotel owner was sweeping the pavement in front of his building at 1097 Long Beach Blvd.

Allison fired his .357-caliber revolver, hitting Galal once in the abdomen. The officer said he mistook Galal’s long-handled dustpan for a weapon.

“He said he was sorry,” Galal said the next day as he lay in intensive care. “He just saw me and shot.”

Four years later, Panish said, Galal has an 18-inch scar on his stomach, digestive problems, hernias, and a fear of police.

Allison is still on the police force and has been named one of the police chief’s “top cops,” according to Panish.

The trial, which began in Judge Valerie Baker’s courtroom June 22, saw a parade of city officials on the witness stand.

Panish subpoenaed former Long Beach Police Chief Lawrence Binkley, who testified about discipline and framing of the city’s officer. City Manager James Hankla was called by William Reidder, senior deputy city attorney, to counter Binkley’s testimony.

During the course of the trial, other witnesses included the present police chief, William Ellis, new City Councilwoman Doris Topsy-Elvord, and Civil Service Commissioner Olivia Herrera.

The city of Long Beach is not giving up, Shannon said.

“We will move for a new trial, based on our belief that the court made several mistakes,” he said.

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