By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The sister of a California murder suspect who was gunned down in the Idaho wilderness by FBI agents in August of 2013 after he fled there with a teenage girl he abducted from the San Diego area has sued the agency for wrongful death and excessive force.
An FBI hostage rescue team shot James Lee DiMaggio, 40, multiple times in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness after tracking him and 16-year-old Hannah Anderson there following an exhaustive, six-state manhunt.
An investigation by federal prosecutors and Idaho law enforcement later determined that the agents had used reasonable force to defend themselves because they believed DiMaggio had opened fire on them.
But in her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Idaho on Monday, attorneys for the slain man's sister, Lora DiMaggio Robinson, called the killing unnecessary, saying that DiMaggio had fired his rifle into the air at Anderson's request to try to summon help.
Prior to that, DiMaggio had failed to start a signal fire or flag down an FBI search plane.
"FBI agents were so enraged by the as yet unproven underlying allegations of wrongdoing against James Lee DiMaggio that they were overwhelmed by passion, resulting in their mission being more akin to an execution than a mission to rescue and apprehend,” the lawsuit claims.
Robinson's lawyers allege in the court papers that the FBI "intentionally excluded all other law enforcement officers from the ground 'rescue' operations,” so they could kill DiMaggio.
Local and national FBI officials did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday. In July, the organization declined to comment when they learned a lawsuit was planned.
The pursuit of DiMaggio began after authorities responded to a fire at his residence 30 miles east of San Diego and found the charred body of 8-year-old Ethan Anderson in the house. The boy’s mother, 44-year-old Christina Anderson, and the family dog had been killed in DiMaggio’s garage.
Authorities were summoned to the River of No Return Wilderness after a group of horseback riders came across the missing pair six days later.
Hannah Anderson was rescued unharmed and returned to California in time for the funerals of her mother and brother.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh)