Families Sue Over Baseball Bat Killings

     RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) — Former minor league shortstop Brandon Willie Martin faces the death penalty for beating his father, uncle and another man to death with his personalized baseball bat. Now, children of two of the dead men are suing local officials and two home security companies for letting it happen.
     The six plaintiffs accuse Riverside County and the city of Corona of taking the clearly disturbed Martin into custody on a three-day mental health hold but then releasing him after two days without any treatment.
     They accuse ADT Security Services and contractor Home Defender Inc. of not sending help upon hearing the sounds of the attack over the telephone during a call from their installer, who was the third man killed.
     Spokesmen for the county, the city and ADT all declined to comment on the state court lawsuit, filed last week. Representatives from Home Defender could not be reached late Friday.
     Ricardo Echeverria of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, did not respond to a request to comment.
     According to the lawsuit and news accounts of the murders, Brandon Martin attacked his father, Michael Martin, uncle Ricky Andersen and ADT installer Barry Swanson on Sept. 17, 2015, after coming home from the county mental health facility.
     “Immediately upon arriving at the home, Brandon smashed his wheelchair-bound father’s head in with a baseball bat, killing him instantly,” the plaintiffs say in their lawsuit. He next killed Swanson and mortally wounded Andersen when each tried to intervene. Police captured Martin the next day.
     The Riverside district attorney’s office has charged him with three murders, evading police, resisting arrest and injuring a police dog during his capture. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty and Martin has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to news accounts.
     His troubles had begun long before, according those accounts and the lawsuit.
     A star player in high school, Brandon Martin was the 38th overall draft pick in 2011 when he was 17. Signed for an $860,000 bonus, according to a newspaper, he joined a Tampa Bay Devil Rays minor league team. In his first season, he led the team in runs and RBIs.
     The plaintiffs say that over the next few years, Martin began to party and use drugs and alcohol heavily. During the 2013 season, he failed a drug test and “became increasingly rude and disrespectful.” After a fight with a coach at the start of the 2014 season, the team released him to seek treatment.
     He moved back home with his parents, even though his relationship with them had soured. He “began displaying irrational hatred and anger towards his African-American father” and “often made racially-charged comments” to him, the victims’ children say.
     One day, he punched his father in the face several times. Police arrived but did not arrest Martin out of concern for his baseball career, according to the lawsuit.
     Then, on Sept. 13, he tried to choke his mother. Two days later, he held scissors to her neck. Police were called again and took him away for a 72-hour mental health evaluation.
     But the county mental health facility was overcrowded, and Martin spent most of the next two days in its waiting room. He was released early and given a bus pass that he used to return home where he committed the murders, the lawsuit says.
     “Brandon had never been given a room … and did not receive treatment or evaluations from Riverside Mental Health, as they were required to do” under the California Welfare and Institutions Code Section, the plaintiffs claim.
     The six adult children — Andersen and Swanson each left two sons and a daughter — charge the city and county with negligence per se and negligent supervision for the alleged violations of statutory duties. If the laws had been followed, “Brandon Martin, who posed a danger to others, would not have been released to the unsuspecting public and allowed to murder Michael Martin, Barry Swanson and Ricky Andersen,” the lawsuit contends. “These statutes were enacted to protect the public from the kind of harm Brandon Martin inflicted on the decedents.”
     In addition, the plaintiffs accuse ADT and Home Defender of negligence. Martin’s parents had the rushed to have a security system installed as soon as they learned their son would be released from the hospital. Swanson was on the phone with his office doing the installation when Martin killed him.
     “The call was recorded, and the attack can be heard. Despite being an alarm and security company and knowing the attack was ongoing, neither ADT LLC nor Horne Defender, Inc. alerted authorities,” the lawsuit states.
     “By holding themselves out as experts in the security and home defense industry and by promising to notify authorities once notice of a break in or attack is received, ADT, LLC [and] Home Defender, Inc. assumed and owed a duty to decedents and plaintiffs to notify authorities of the attack,” the plaintiffs say.
     Their lawsuit seeks general and special damages but does not specify an amount.
     

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