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Friday, March 8, 2024

Raiding the Wrong House, Killing the Wrong Man

     Eugene Mallory, a retired engineer who had worked for Lockheed Martin forty years resided in an unincorporated community east of Palmdale, California called Littlerock. The 80-year-old shared a home with his 48-year-old wife, Tonya Pate and her grown son.

     Drug enforcement deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office arrived at the Mallory house at 7:30 on the morning of June 25, 2013. The officers were in possession of a search warrant authorizing them to search the house for methamphetamine and the chemicals used to manufacturer the drug. The probable cause underlying the search was flimsy at best. Officers, from outside the house, claimed to have smelled the odor of the ingredients used to produce meth. The narcotic officers had not orchestrated an undercover buy or had an informant purchase meth in the Mallory house. Moreover, the suspected meth factory hadn't been subjected to a prolonged drug surveillance. All the police had to go on was the smell of meth chemicals. The magistrate should not have authorized a raid on such flimsy evidence. 

     After forcing their way into the dwelling without notice, deputies encountered Mr. Mallory in a bedroom at the rear of the house. It was there they shot him six times as he lay in his own bed. Officers justified the lethal force by claiming that the old man had pointed a semi-automatic handgun at them.

     As it turned out, the Mallory dwelling did not contain meth or any evidence that the drug was being manufactured in the home. Deputies did come across a quantity of marijuana in Mrs. Pate's son's bedroom.

     In speaking to the media about the fatal wrong house raid, Los Angeles County spokesperson Steve Whitmore said this: "There was a drug operation that was certainly going on in this house." 

     On October 10, 2013 James Bergener, the attorney representing Mrs. Tonya Pate, announced that he had filed on her behalf a $50 million wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County. 

     In January 2016 Los Angles County settled the Tonya Pate suit by paying the plaintiff $1.6 million. The officer who killed Mr. Mallory was not charged or even disciplined.

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