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Man seeks to review records of Palmdale Sheriff’s deputies


Hit by projectiles during training exercise

Attorneys for a 63-year-old man suing Los Angeles County, alleging that he was driving when he was accidentally struck in the head by a 40mm projectile fired from the Palmdale sheriff’s station during a 2022 training exercise, want to review  the personnel records of two deputies as well as investigative reports regarding what happened.

Birch Wellington Pender’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges battery, negligence, negligent hiring, training and supervision and civil rights violations. On July 27, Pender’s attorneys filed court papers with Judge Steven A. Ellis stating that deputies later told Pender, who was being treated in a hospital, that some “brand new” deputies were training at the station and one of them “missed the target and stated that (the projectile) had actually went over the wall.”

The hard-plastic projectile was recovered inside Pender’s vehicle and is likely what caused one of his windows to shatter, the deputies further informed Pender, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys, who in their court papers are asking for the employee records of Deputies Aram Dederian and John J. Gallagher.

“There is good cause to obtain documents in both Deputy Derderian and Master Field Training Officer Gallagher’s personnel files because Deputy Derderian fired the 40mm round that struck plaintiff and because Master Field Training Officer Gallagher supervised and conducted the training exercise,” according to Pender’s attorneys’ court papers.

The information sought from both includes background investigation reports, training and certification records, performance evaluations, use of force reports, disciplinary records, internal affairs investigations, patrol and incident reports and body-worn camera footage during the live-fire training exercise. Pender’s lawyers additionally seek all investigative reports and videos, photographs and audio documentation regarding the mishap. A hearing on the motion is scheduled Aug. 23.

In their court papers, defense attorneys deny any liability on the county’s part and state that Pender’s case should be dismissed.

When Pender was struck, the Palmdale resident was driving his pickup truck south on Sierra Highway about 4:15 p.m. on May 4, 2022, the suit states. The Palmdale Sheriff’s Station is located on East Avenue Q just east of Sierra Highway. The 40mm projectile shattered a window on Pender’s truck, hit him in the head and left him with severe, permanent injuries and emotional distress, according to the suit filed Feb. 27.

“At the time, plaintiff did not know what caused his window to explode or what struck him in the head, causing him to fracture his septum,” Pender’s attorneys’ court papers state.

Pender has been unable to perform his job to the extent he could before being hurt and faces an ongoing reduction in income, the suit states.