Family files lawsuit after police kill California man

AP News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2016 7:46 PM
Family files lawsuit after police kill California man

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Friday on behalf of the family of Joseph Mann, who was fatally shot by Sacramento, California, police last month.

The lawsuit says Mann displayed "overt signs of being in the midst of mental crisis" before he was shot, and that police should not have used lethal force.

Video shot by a bystander and released at a news conference Friday shows Mann interacting with police before the shooting, doing karate moves in the middle of a street, and zigzagging as he walked.

When the shooting occurs, at least 12 gunshots can be heard, but neither the officers firing nor Mann is clearly visible.

"The officers created a confrontation and shot their way out of it," attorney John Burris said. He argued that police should have called in a mental health professional to address Mann or used non-lethal force to subdue him.

Mann was black. The lawsuit did not make an issue of his race.

Two Sacramento police officers fatally shot Mann on July 11 after responding to calls of a man waving a knife and acting erratically. They say they received reports that Mann had a gun in his waistband, but none was found.

Police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said in July that the two officers appeared to have been following department protocol when they killed Mann.

Officer Traci Trapani, a police spokeswoman, declined to comment Friday but said three separate investigations into the shooting were ongoing. She said both officers involved in the incident remain on modified duty, assigned to desk work.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, claims high-ranking police supervisors condoned the actions with deliberate indifference of police misconduct. It says the officers involved violated Mann's rights by using deadly force against him and deprived family members of their constitutional right to a familial relationship with him.

Burris called for police to release the names of the two officers involved and to allow the Mann family to view surveillance video of the incident.

Police have not released recordings of 911 calls and video surveillance footage, citing the department's protocol and a law exempting police investigations.

The Sacramento County coroner also would not release Mann's autopsy results or toxicology reports, which are not yet complete, because his death is classified as a homicide.

Sacramento police typically carry Tasers, pepper spray and collapsible batons, Heinlein said last month. Supervisors keep two additional non-lethal firearms in the trunks of their squad cars, but Heinlein said in July that the situation arose too quickly for officers to prepare those less-lethal weapons systems.

They did not attempt to use non-lethal weapons before opening fire, nor were they required to do so, he said.

Family members described Mann as a college graduate who was smart, loved politics and economics, and succeeded in several careers before deteriorating into mental illness about five years ago. They said he began having problems after his mother died and had been living on the streets before his death.

Mann's brother, Robert Mann Sr., said Friday he wanted justice for his brother and answers from Sacramento police. "We loved our brother dearly. We truly did. And we're gonna miss him dearly. We're not here for anything but justice for our brother," he said. "We need to have some answers."