Family of Pregnant California Teen Killed by Police Awarded $21 Million

  • Elena Mondragon was 16 years old and pregnant when she rode as a passenger in BMW driven by a wanted man.
  • Undercover police officers dressed in plain clothes cut off the BMW in an unmarked van.
  • The driver tried to escape, which prompted undercover officers to fire at the car killing Elena.

A federal jury on Friday awarded $21 million to the family of a pregnant teenager killed by undercover police officers in California.

Elena Mondragon was 16 years old and pregnant when she and four other teenagers piled into a BMW in Hayward, Calif., in 2017.

According to the complaint filed in 2018 by a law firm representing Elena’s family, the BMW was cut off by a van filled with undercover Fremont Police officers. The BMW driver, Rico Tiger was wanted for several robberies, which Mondragon had not known before the incident.

The plainclothes officers drew AR-15s, and in a panic, Tiger tried to escape, prompting the undercover officers to fire at the car.

Mondragon, who was in her first trimester, was killed. Tiger escape, but was later arrested in San Francisco. He was charged with the murder of Mondragon under the state provocation act, according to Mercury News.

The Mercury News reported that Mondragon suffered multiple wounds, including bullets and shrapnel. The law firm representing Mondragon’s family said in the complaint that the killing was “a botched covert arrest operation.”

Mondragon’s case is unique because lawsuits over police killings are settled a majority of the time.

“They banked that nobody was going to care about Ebbie. That’s what I believe.” Melissa Nold, one of the family’s attorneys, told Mercury News. “They looked at the situation and who she was and who her family was and decided that her life didn’t matter, that her life didn’t have value.”

The jury’s decision after about two days of deliberation was “a tremendous verdict for the family,” the firm told the San Francisco Chronicle. The family was awarded $21 million, making this one of the largest settlements linked to the police. Tiger was ordered to pay about half while the city of Fremont, and the police were ordered to pay the rest.

“We hope a verdict like this sends the message that police departments need to humble themselves in the face of community demands that they do better, ” Adante Pointer, an attorney for Mondragon’s mother, told The Mercury News.

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