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Jury Unsure If Cops Let Shooter Die


“I think these officers thought emergency vehicles were on their way.”
Juror Martin Quiroz

(CBS) A mistrial was declared Thursday when a federal court jury remained deadlocked on a civil claim that police allowed a wounded, handcuffed robber to die after a 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder declared a mistrial and lawyers on both side they would retry the case.

CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports the jurors were considering a suit filed over a shootout watched coast-to-coast, in which 17 police and civilians were wounded before one of the body-armor-clad bank robbers killed himself, and a second was mortally wounded by police.

Attorney Steve Yagman says he’ll go to court again to show the Los Angeles police deliberately let the second gunman, Emil Matasareanu, bleed to death at the crime scene.

“By letting a pathetic, brain damaged, wounded man, Emil Matasareanu, bleed to death, the LAPD engaged in unthinkable cruelty,” says Yagman.

Juror Martin Quiroz says, “I think these officers thought emergency vehicles were on their way.”

Yagman says doesn’t expect to win. He says he just wants to make a point that no one should be denied his rights.

The lawsuit against retired policemen John Futrell and James Vojtecky and the city claimed the officers let Matasareanu, 30, die due to deliberate indifference.

Retired Detective James Vojtecky says he resents being accused. He says, “I thought I did a good job for 27 years. And it’s a lousy feeling. But that’s part of the job too. Its just lousy to have to come back out of retirement to defend yourself.”

The jury heard conflicting medical opinions on whether Matasareanu could have survived, but based on testimony the panel asked to have read back, the jurors appeared to focus on whether emergency medical help was or could have been available.

The testimony involved an ambulance crew that arrived but left without Matasareanu after Vojtecky allegedly told the crew to “get the (expletive) out of here.”

During the trial, Vojtecky testified he said something similar. The ambulance driver testified he believed he was in danger by being in the area.

The officers testified they tried to get the ambulance to come back or to get another one, but the plaintiffs focused on a point at which Futrell canceled an ambulance call and told the dispatcher, “I have no officers or citizens down, only a suspect.”

Wearing full body armor, Matasareanu and Larry Eugene Phillips, 26, were spotted by a police unit as they tried get away from the bank on Feb. 28, 1997.

The hooded gunmen raked the area with hundreds of rounds of gunfire in a 44-minute battle as the nation watched on television.

Phillips died first, shooting himself at 9:45 a.m

Matasareanu finally fell after a furious firefight with SWAT officers. Shot 29 times, he bled profusely as he lay handcuffed. A neighborhood witnestestified that he stopped moving about an hour after being shot. An autopsy put the time of death at 11:10 a.m.

The defense argued the scene was chaotic, many people needed rescue, and the officers did request aid for Matasareanu but the area was too dangerous for ambulance crews as police searched for other gunmen.

That assertion was bolstered by a resident's testimony that a third masked gunman with a machine gun hid in her yard during the gun battle but was gone when police came.

Copyright 2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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