$1,250,000 :: Wyche v. City of L.A.

JURY VERDICT: Police beat plaintiff with flashlight

On March 14, 1974, Roy H. Wyche, a former Los Angeles Unified School District truck driver, was pulled over and stopped by two police officers near 111th Street and Grand Avenue. It was about 5 p.m., just before sunset, and Officers Marg G. Litzinger and Frank Guarino alleged that the vehicle Wyche was driving had equipment violations, a noisy muffler and an either a dimly lit or burned out license plate light.

Wyche protested and a physical confrontation occurred during which one of the officers struck Wyche in the head with a heavy, five-cell flashlight. The officers also took Wyche into custody on charges of assaulting a peace officer, equipment violations, and resisting arrest.

On July 31, 1974, Wyche went to trial to face those criminal charges and, after an extensive hearing, was acquitted on all four counts. During the course of this trial, it was shown that Wyche’s vehicle, which had been impounded following his arrest, had both of its allegedly faulty equipment in working order counter to what the officers initially stated.

In the intervening months, Wyche spent much of his time hospitalized–a total of eight weeks–due to the severity of his injuries during the confrontation. His listed injuries included a depressed skull fracture, brain damage, nosebleed, bruises, and extensive lacerations. Following the incident, Wyche suffered epileptic episodes and psychological problems that left him unable to return to work. In the days leading up to the lawsuit, he was living on Social Security disability payments and loans from family and friends.

Wyche hired attorney Larry Booth of the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff to represent him in a personal injury civil lawsuit against the City of L.A. on the grounds of police abuse.

During the course of the month long trial, representatives of the city contended that Wyche injured himself when his head struck the ground while he struggled with Officers Litzinger and Guarino.

Yet, ultimately the eight-man, four woman jury ruled in favor of Wyche. The jury ruled that Officer Litzinger was at fault for striking Wyche with the flashlight. They awarded the plaintiff $1.25 million in damages. At the time of this verdict, attorney Larry Booth called the amount the “largest ever returned in this city on allegations of police brutality.”

Article [PDF]