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Mother of 5-Year-Old Killed by Officer Agrees to $395,000 Settlement

May 10, 1986

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ The mother of a 5-year-old boy shot to death by a police officer who thought the youngster’s toy pistol was a real weapon agreed Friday to accept a $395,000 settlement from the city.

The agreement between Patricia Ridge and the city of Stanton, where the shooting occurred, came four days before the woman’s $20 million wrongful- death lawsuit was to go to trial in Orange County Superior Court.

Stanton Police Officer Anthony Sperl shot Patrick Andrew Mason in the apartment where the boy lived with his mother. The officer went there March 3, 1983, to check a report that the boy hadn’t been seen for several days.

When Sperl opened the door to a darkened bedroom illuminated only by a flickering television, he saw a figure pointing a gun at him and fired, he said. When he turned on the light, he saw the figure was a boy with a toy pistol.

Mrs. Ridge, 32, said she left her son alone when she went to work because she could not afford a baby-sitter.

Mrs. Ridge, who moved to Chicago after the shooting, is happy with the settlement, said her lawyer, Richard Farnell. ″She’s glad to have it over.″

Sperl will not have to pay any damages under the settlement.

″I was vindicated by Stanton, by the Orange County sheriff, by the FBI, by the Orange County grand jury,″ said Sperl, 27, who left the force after the shooting. ″Now I’m vindicated civilly. ... I can go on with my life.″

Nancy Zeltzer, a city lawyer, called the incident a ″very, very sad story. And I think no one really wanted to go through that publicly.″

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