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Man whose wife accidentally hit by gunfire in hostage incident sues city of Los Angeles

The husband of a woman who was accidentally killed by LAPD gunfire while being held hostage by a knife-wielding suspect in Van Nuys in 2018 is suing the city and three officers.

DeWayne Holt, who was married to 49-year-old Elizabeth Tollison, filed the wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, naming as defendants the city and the officers.

Last September, the slain woman’s adult children, Jesse Pelaez, Nick Ramirez and Rebecca Tollison, filed their own suit against the same defendants in Los Angeles Superior Court. They are also seeking unspecified damages.

The first suit was filed a little more than a month after Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore released body-camera footage of the shooting that resulted in Tollison’s death as she was held hostage by her assailant, who also was killed.

Moore said officers went to the Central Lutheran Church, the site of a homeless outreach center in the 6400 block of Tyrone Avenue, around 1:10 p.m. last June 16 in response to a report of a man with a knife assaulting a woman. After a tense standoff, officers shot Guillermo Perez, 32, as he held a large serrated knife to the neck of Tollison, the chief said.

According to the new lawsuit, the officers should have known that Perez was “mentally ill, emotionally disturbed and/or undergoing a mental-health crisis.”

The officers did not attempt to move or direct Tollison or any of the other civilians who were in the vicinity of Perez to positions of safety and made no effort to contain or isolate Perez, the new suit alleges. Two of the 18 bullets fired by the officers hit Tollison in the head and left shoulder, and she died at a hospital two days later as a direct result of the officers’ negligent actions, both complaints allege.

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