The city of Fresno has agreed to pay $675,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit over a case in which a Fresno police officer ran over and killed a bicyclist who was fleeing from a traffic stop in August 2013.
The settlement in U.S. District Court in Fresno means the city admits no wrongdoing or liability in the death of Angel Toscano, 39, of Fresno. In court papers, the city contends Toscano’s death was an accident; that Toscano fell in front of a patrol car and Officer James Lyon was unable to avoid hitting him.
But a lawyer for Toscano’s family said Friday that if the case had gone to trial, the evidence would have shown that Lyon intentionally bumped the rear wheel of Toscano’s bicycle, causing him to fall. Lyon then ran over Toscano, killing him.
“The family wanted vindication for an egregious act,” Fresno attorney Andrew B. Jones, who represents four of Toscano’s six children, said Friday. Toscano’s two other children are represented by Visalia attorney John Rozier.
The settlement will be divided by the six children and their attorneys upon approval from the court, which is scheduled to happen later this month, Jones said.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said an investigation by the department’s accident reconstruction unit, which had assistance from the California Highway Patrol, determined that Lyon “did not intentionally strike Mr. Toscano’s bicycle and that this was an unfortunate vehicle accident resulting in the tragic loss of life.”
Lyon was pursuing Toscano through an alleyway when Toscano suddenly fell off of his bicycle in front of the patrol car, the chief said. Lyon attempted to stop his vehicle “but due to the loose gravel he was not able to and unintentionally struck Toscano,” he said.
If the settlement is approved in court, Dyer said, the funds would come from the Police Department’s budget, or from a risk management fund that can be utilized to pay for settlements.
Lyon is still employed with the department, he said.
The payout is the latest in a long string of civil rights lawsuits facing the Fresno Police Department over allegations of excessive force and wrongful death.