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Family of pregnant teen killed by undercover police is awarded $21M

Elena Mondragon was a passenger in a BMW leaving a California apartment complex when an unmarked van filled with Fremont police officers tried to cut it off in March 2017.
/ Source: Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A federal jury awarded $21 million to the family of a pregnant teen who was shot and killed by undercover police officers in Northern California five years ago, attorneys said.

Elena Mondragon was a passenger in a BMW pulling out of a Hayward apartment complex when an unmarked van filled with Fremont police officers tried to cut it off in March 2017, according to a complaint filed by the teen’s family. At the time, Fremont police said the BMW’s driver, who was apparently wanted by police, had rammed the car into the van.

Police opened fire and fatally wounded Mondragon, who was a passenger. She was 16 and in her first trimester of pregnancy.

A vigil for Elena Mondragon in 2018.
A vigil for Elena Mondragon in 2018.NBC Bay Area

Her family’s civil rights and wrongful death complaint described the killing as “a botched covert arrest operation,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The jury’s decision on Friday was “a tremendous verdict for the family,” said plaintiffs’ attorney John Burris.

Burris said the jury decided to split culpability between the man driving the car and the officers, so that the city of Fremont will likely supply about $10 million of the award.

Fremont officials did not immediately comment on the jury’s decision.

In 2018, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office concluded that the fatal police shooting was justified.