Claim Filed Over Police Shooting

A wrongful death and civil-rights violation claim in the death of Colby Koenig will be reviewed by the City Council next week; about six months after Laguna Beach police fatally wounded the driver of a mangled vehicle trying to flee a multi-car pileup on Coast Highway.

State statutes require that a claim be filed against a municipality within six months prior to the filing of a lawsuit, but City Manager Ken Frank on Wednesday predicted no suit will proceed. “We feel very comfortable once all the information is available, there won’t be any claim,” said Frank, referring to the still undisclosed outcome of the officer involved shooting inquiry by the county district attorney’s office.

While the investigation apparently has concluded, the report has not been made public, Frank said.; An attorney for John Koenig and Cindy Tobis, of Rancho Palos Verdes, the adopted parents of Colby Koenig, said in a claim that in the moments preceding the shooting Koenig did not pose a risk to others.

Moreover, poor training and inadequate supervision of police in the proper use of deadly force against motor vehicles caused Koenig’s injuries, according to the claim filed June 23 by lawyer Joseph Barrett.; In February, Barrett, a partner in The Cochran Firm Los Angeles established by famed criminal defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, told the Indy he hoped to obtain video or audio recordings from the swarm of police vehicles at the Coast Highway accident scene Jan. 12. He also sought statements from witnesses before advising his clients on a legal recourse. Frank said none of those documents have been released yet, nor have the toxicology reports from the coroner’s officer. Barrett could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Jan. 12, police fired on the 25-year-old Koenig after he restarted his wrecked, tireless Mitsubishi Lancer that had raced into town at high speeds, hitting one vehicle head on and two more as he apparently tried to flee.

He was warned to stop before three officers fired guns, Police Chief Paul Workman said. They were responding to distress cries from two people partially inside the moving car trying to offer aid as well as the potential for harm to a street full of bystanders.

“We’re all really lucky no one innocent died,” said Teo Moore, of Huntington Beach, a paramedic in training trying to help the trapped motorist, who was surprised when Koenig revived and turned on the ignition. “He kept screaming, ‘I gotta go’ and kept hitting me because I was trying to get the keys,” said Moore. “I tried everything I could and it wasn’t enough and police had to shoot him. That haunts me.”; Other witnesses were equally dumbfounded when the crumpled Mitsubishi started to move towards St. Ann’s Drive, where groups of people had gathered.