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Man shot by LAPD officers who mistook cellphone for gun wins $2.35 million at trial

Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Dexter White's chest still tightens when he sees the photo on Instagram of his crumpled body, moments after a group of Los Angeles police officers shot him after mistaking his cellphone for a gun.

He had pulled out the phone in confusion as officers surrounded him as he walked to the corner store, responding to what turned out to be a false report of domestic violence one afternoon more than five years ago.

One of the officers thought White might have a gun, prompting him and several colleagues to start shooting. Bullets ripped into his legs and shoulder as he fell to the pavement — but he survived.

His shooting, around the corner from his South L.A. apartment building, was one of at least 38 in the last five years in which LAPD officers opened fire on someone who ended up being unarmed, according to a Times review of nearly 200 police shootings since 2018.

The near-death experience left White traumatized and prone to bouts of fear, anxiety and anger.

"I've broken down multiple times," White said. He no longer drives by himself, out of fear of being pulled over while alone, he said.


Since the shooting, he has been stopped several times while riding in the car with his aunt Alexis Banks, each time explaining to officers what happened to him so they don't misinterpret his jitters.

In some LAPD shootings since 2018, the person hit was carrying a plastic replica pistol or butane lighter that resembled a firearm, cases that fit the state attorney general's definition of unarmed. In several other cases, officers shot at someone after they discarded their weapon.

At times, officers have hit innocent bystanders, drawing criticism from some city leaders, activists and residents that officers are still too quick to use lethal force without considering options to resolve a situation. Two years ago, an LAPD officer killed 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta when he shot at an assault suspect in a North Hollywood store. Like other shooting survivors and relatives of those killed by LAPD officers, the teen's family sued the city, alleging that the officer who fired the fatal bullet violated her rights. The case is pending.

White filed his own lawsuit challenging the actions that led to him being shot in 2018.


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