The three young children of Christian Vargas, a 25-year-old man who died in 2016 after a violent confrontation with police, have settled their federal lawsuit against the City of Colton for $5.4 million.
In an announcement, civil rights attorney Carl Douglas said the award was the largest settlement involving an officer-involved-shooting in the city’s history.
“When anyone first hears that the city of Colton paid $5.4 million to settle a wrongful death shooting case, their first reaction is usually ‘wow, something really bad must have happened,’ and they would be right,” said Douglas.
“Something really bad did happen. A young man’s life was taken for no good reason at all because two reckless police officers decided to exercise ‘street justice’ at the conclusion of a high-speed stolen car chase. The passenger in the car was shot in the back of his head, while raising both hands up in the air, and three young babies were left without a father forever.”
The settlement stems from September 12, 2016, when police were chasing a reported stolen car in Colton. The chase ended in the 900 block of East C Street in front of Washington High School when the car accelerated forward ramming the patrol car pushing it into one of the officers. Officers fired eight bullets into the driver’s side of the car after it had come to a complete stop and both suspects had raised their hands in the air in an effort to surrender.
The driver, Joseph Carter, was struck three times in the hand, arm, and face and survived. The passenger, Christian Vargas, who was unarmed, was struck four times in the hand, both arms and head, and died at the scene. He died just six days after his 25th birthday.
“I am glad that our two daughters will now be taken care of, but I cry every time I think about the father that they will never come to know,” said Alicia Guzman.
Stephany Ebarra added, “Our son misses his dad so much and cannot understand why his life was taken away from him. It is hard for me to explain it in a way that makes any sense.”
Attorney Douglas added, “No amount of money will ever adequately compensate Mr. Vargas’ children for the pain these officers caused, but at least the city of Colton has stepped up to do their part to say they are sorry. This case has taken far too long for justice.