Family Calls Shooting Absolutely Pointless
SACRAMENTO (CN) - Showing "total lack of awareness," a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy awoke a mentally ill man and then shot him to death in his own bedroom, the man's family claims in court.
Theodore and Karen Rose sued Sacramento County, its Sheriff Scott Jones, and Deputy David McEntire for the wrongful death of their son Johnathan Rose, in Federal Court.
The Roses called 911 on Jan. 17, 2012, to report that Johnathan, 24, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, had become agitated after his first meeting with a new psychiatrist.
The Roses say in the complaint that they had learned while living in nearby Placer County that the best way to defuse these situations was to call for police assistance.
Also, Ted Rose's health had declined after he had a heart attack in 2010. He says in the complaint that though he called 911, he did not overdramatize the situation or indicate that Johnathan was on a rampage.
After Ted Rose's 911 call, Johnathan calmed down enough to take his medication and fall asleep. More than an hour later, Deputy McEntire showed up at the Rose home, the Roses say.
"Unbeknownst to Ted Rose, the Sheriff's Department dispatch practice was to downgrade a call regarding someone who was potentially '5150' [a danger to himself or others] when the Sheriff's Department received only a single call for service. Had Ted Rose placed multiple calls, the protocol would have required a minimum of two officers responding," the Roses say in the complaint.
When McEntire arrived, the parents say, he ignored their attempts to explain that the situation was no longer volatile and did not require officer intervention. They say McEntire barked, "Where is he?" and barged into their home without permission.
"Johnathan was sleeping on a mattress in the living room because he had given up his own bedroom to his sister, who was staying at the house temporarily," the complaint states.
"During the entire interaction between Deputy McEntire and Johnathan Rose, his mother Karen was in the bathroom and Johnathan's brother Theodore Jr. was in his bedroom. Although they could hear much of what was happening, they were not able to see most of what transpired.
"Deputy McEntire went directly to Johnathan, who was sleeping on the mattress, and yelled 'Get up' twice.
"Johnathan, although startled, stood up as directed. Johnathan faced the wall and put his hands behind his back, apparently expecting to be handcuffed.
"Deputy McEntire then ordered Johnathan to get on the ground."
But Johnathan's illness included an extreme phobia of germs. The Roses say that while their son started to get on the ground, he was psychologically unable to lie down on a dirty floor - and he stood back up and asked to be arrested.
"This was not a sufficient response for McEntire," the complaint states. McEntire, without warning or reflection, bear-hug tackled Johnathan into the wall with sufficient force so as to cause Johnathan to bust a hole through the wall. McEntire then hit Johnathan on the head with his metal flashlight, again without warning. Johnathan, with McEntire on top of him, fell onto his mattress on the floor. McEntire, on top of Johnathan, started to pummel him with punches. At that point, Johnathan attempted to defend himself by trying to block McEntire's blows, and he also threw some punches in response to McEntire's blows in a desperate attempt to try to stop the attack.
"Ted Rose, shocked by the bizarre turn of events, grabbed his son in an attempt to end the physical confrontation. He urged his son to 'stop' and warned his son, 'He's going to hurt you.'
"Then without warning, Deputy McEntire fired three shots in rapid succession into Johnathan while Ted Rose held his son.
"Johnathan went limp after the shots but was breathing.
"Johnathan never used or attempted to use any weapon or weapon of opportunity during the struggle with Deputy McEntire.
"Johnathan never grabbed or attempted to grab Deputy McEntire's firearm or any of his other law enforcement weapons."
The Roses say they asked McEntire to administer first aid to their son. He not only refused, but forbade the family from doing it, according to the complaint.
"Ted Rose repeatedly and plaintively asked Deputy McEntire why he'd shot his son. McEntire responded, 'I don't know, I don't know, I don't know,'" the complaint states.
When an ambulance arrived, Johnathan was still breathing. But sheriff's deputies refused to allow any members of the family to accompany Johnathan to the hospital - detaining Theodore Jr. in the back of a police car and threatening to arrest Johnathan's sister Tiffany, who hadn't even been home at the time of the shooting.
Johnathan died that evening. The Roses say their son's death resulted from an abysmal lack of training in the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
"Law enforcement agencies in California, including the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, have been aware of the increasing number of mental health-related calls as there has been a reduction in funding of mental health services. Because of that, the Sheriff's Department is aware of the need for specialized training and protocols when dealing with potentially mentally ill individuals," the complaint states.
"Deputy McEntire's actions indicate a total lack of awareness in regard to handling a mentally ill individual. Any reasonably trained officer would not have escalated this situation or used deadly force.
"Plaintiffs are informed and believe that a substantial number of the law enforcement related shootings within Sacramento County have involved mentally ill individuals.
"Deputy McEntire has a history of excessive force that the Sheriff's Department is actually aware of involving incidents occurring both before and after this shooting.
"The Sheriff's Department does not track individual officers' uses of force for the purpose of identifying potential problem officers. The importance and value of tracking this information has been widely recognized and accepted in law enforcement for at least 20 years and, in particular, as a result of the Christopher Commission report in the aftermath of the Rodney King case.
"Plaintiffs believe and allege that the death of their son was the result of deficient training and supervision and unconstitutional policies, practices and customs at the Sheriff's Department regarding the use of force and regarding interactions with mentally ill or impaired individuals.
"Plaintiffs believe and allege that the Sheriff's Department has a history of unnecessary and fatal encounters with mentally ill individuals. Further, this is not the only time that a family member has called for assistance for a mentally ill relative who was not acting out violently and who was shot and killed in his own home."
The Roses say they want to prevent other families from suffering what they did. They ask the court to find the defendants' policies "inadequate and constitutionally deficient." They also seek compensatory, general, special, punitive and exemplary damages.
In an interview with ABC affiliate News10 last year, Sheriff Jones defended his deputy's actions and called the shooting justified.
"In this case, the shooting was within policy and within the law," Jones said. "I find no satisfaction in saying that."
The Roses are represented by Stewart Katz of Sacramento, and Moseley Collins III of El Dorado Hills.