Family sues police over California Taser death

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 01, 2011 8:43 PM
Family sues police over California Taser death

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The parents of a Southern California man who accuse police of killing their son with a Taser after he honked at a patrol car have sued the sheriff's department and county.

The suit accuses the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the county of San Bernardino and three deputies of assault and battery as well as negligence in the death of Allen Kephart.

Kephart was driving in Rimforest, 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, in May when he honked at a patrol vehicle that turned in front of him, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

The sheriff's deputy then circled his patrol car back behind Kephart's vehicle and pulled him over at a nearby gas station, the lawsuit said.

The deputy ordered Kephart out of his car at gunpoint, forced him to the ground, and was joined by a sergeant and another deputy, the lawsuit said.

The three officers used their electroshock Taser weapons on Kephart "without provocation or justification" for about 10 minutes, expending five cartridges, the lawsuit states.

Kephart, who the suit said was "overheard screaming for help," stopped breathing and died at the gas station.

The suit also accused the officers, named as Deputy Ismael Diaz, Deputy Michael Gardea and Sergeant Bryan Lane, of failing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation or immediately call for emergency assistance.

The lawsuit does not give Kephart's age, but media reports indicate that he was 43.

A representative from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the law enforcement agency told the Los Angeles Times that Kephart had been "combative and uncooperative."

Kephart's family is seeking general and compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial for lost earning potential and loss of love and affection.

"Allen Kephart was a well known person in the community and was known by all, including the officers involved in this incident, to be ... kind hearted and non-violent," the lawsuit said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)