A downtown Los Angeles jury ruled this week that a Long Beach police officer was negligent when he struggled with a man on a Metro platform before the man’s lower body was crushed by the platform and a train in 2017, killing him.
Jurors on Wednesday, Jan. 18, voted unanimously that Officer Martin Ron’s negligence was a substantial factor in the death of Cesar Rodriguez, 23, according to court records.
On Friday, the civil trial was in the penalty phase — when jurors determine how much is paid out to the Rodriguez family.
“It was like my heart just dropped to the floor and hearing my mom cry, having that officer right there, I just broke into tears,” Evelia Granados, the youngest of Rodriguez’s three siblings, said about when the verdicts were read. “He could have avoided all this and my brother could have still been here with us.”
Attorneys representing Rodriguez’s family and Long Beach declined to comment on the verdicts, pending the outcome of the penalty phase.
In 2018, Rodriguez’s family filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against Long Beach, also naming Ron as a defendant, citing four claims. Three of those claims were tossed out by a federal judge before the case was sent to state court in 2020.
Rodriguez was riding northbound on the Metro Blue Line (now called the A Line). The train was between the Willow and Wardlow stations with two Long Beach officers checking to ensure the passengers had paid their fares, authorities have said.
They tried stopping Rodriguez on the Wardlow Station after finding his TAP card was invalid, indicating he hadn’t paid the $1.75 fare. After believing he gave them a false identification, they searched him and found drugs, police have said.
Rodriguez then attempted to run, initiating a struggle with the officers in which both Ron and Rodriguez fell to the ground with Rodriguez’s legs dangling over the side of the platform before he was struck by an incoming northbound train, causing Rodriguez to become pinned between the train and the station.
Rodriguez suffered fractures and internal injuries and died at a hospital.
“I just remember him being him, being very respectful, being a jokester, he was always the funny one from all of us and (I remember) that big cheesy smile he had all the time,” said Granados, who is 27.
Attorneys for Rodriguez’s family argued that Ron knowingly forced Rodriguez to the edge of the platform and failed to pull him out of harm’s way after hearing the oncoming train.
Defense attorneys said it was Rodriguez’s actions – willingly bending his knees, lowering his hips and lunging toward the tracks to get away from the officers – that led to him getting struck.
The majority of the Superior Court jurors found that Rodriguez was not negligent in the actions leading to his death. In individual polling, one juror disagreed.
In August 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cleared Ron of criminal wrongdoing in Rodriguez’s death. His family hopes current District Attorney George Gascon will take another look at the case, Granados said.
“Regardless of what comes out (of the jury’s decision as to how much money the family gets), this outcome, we really don’t care,” Granados said. “We’re not really for the money, we were for the responsibility and that he was found liable for Cesar’s death.”
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