The family of a homeless man who was shot by a Tustin police officer while holding a wooden stick and a plastic bag have filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force and wrongful death, saying he did not never posed a threat to the police.
The lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court names Tustin police officer Estella Silva, who shot Luis Manuel Garcia, as well as city and other officers involved in the incident. August, who remained anonymous. Garcia’s two daughters, ages 18 and 13, and their mother and Garcia’s former partner, Rosalia Becerra, are seeking unspecified damages.
“We want justice for him and for my daughters,” Becerra said in November after police released body camera footage of Silva’s shooting. “She took away the possibility of my daughters having a father. She took away his opportunity to get out of the hole he was in. We want to see justice.
According to the complaint, officers mishandled an Aug. 8 call about a knife-wielding man whose description — a white man with blond hair — did not match Garcia.
When officers showed up the next day, according to the lawsuit, they failed to use proper de-escalation techniques, failed to give Garcia enough time to cooperate with commands, and failed to issue warnings about lethal force before Silva shoots him.
“Officers are trained to defuse situations, but what this officer did from the moment she came into contact with him was to make everything worse,” said Michael Carrillo, one of the attorneys representing the family. of Garcia. “There were no allegations that he had any weapons or hurt anyone.”
Lt. Matt Nunely, spokesman for the Tustin Police Department, declined to comment on the lawsuit, pointing to active investigations by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the state Department of Justice, which is required to investigate all police shootings in the state. result in the death of an unarmed civilian.
In footage from an officer’s body camera, police can be heard arriving past a set of tall bushes in front of a mobile home community telling Garcia to leave the hedgerows with his hands up.
Garcia says his hands are up and he doesn’t know why they want to arrest him, adding that he was there to collect cans to recycle.
As Garcia steps out of the bushes toward the sidewalk, the officers shout that he has a baton. The officer wearing the body camera fires a Taser at Garcia, who screams and backs into the hedgerows. When Garcia steps forward again moments later, Silva, whose gun was already drawn, fires at least two shots, and Garcia stumbles away from the officers before collapsing on the sidewalk.
Officers provided first aid until paramedics took Garcia to hospital, where he died later that day.
No weapon was found on Garcia. He was carrying a bag full of empty cans and the wooden stick he used to pick up recyclables.
Silva and other officers involved in the shooting remained on duty in the field, the police department said when the video was released in November.
Family members and attorneys involved in the lawsuit said Garcia suffered from mental illnesses that worsened after he became homeless. The family tried to help him, but he preferred to live alone, they said. Even so, Garcia had remained in contact with his ex-partner and his children. Becerra previously described him as “very sweet” and “very caring for his daughters.”
“The kids are just devastated,” Carrillo said. “He had issues, worries, but he’s still their only father, their only father.”
Los Angeles Times