FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — Seventh months after Bakersfield was ranked the deadliest city in the deadliest county in the nation for police shootings, the family of a man who was killed at a Subway restaurant claims officers shot him in the back for no reason.
“On August 22, 2015, 29-year-old Jason Alderman was gunned down ‘execution style’ by Bakersfield Police Department (‘BPD’) officers Chad Garrett and Rick Wimbish at a Subway restaurant while conducting an entirely separate investigation and without engaging in any de-escalation protocol. Now, his two infant sons and mother bring this suit against the city of Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Police Department, and the officers named above, as a result of Mr. Alderman’s wrongful and untimely death,” his two sons says in the July 11 federal complaint.
Their attorney Ben Meiselas told Courthouse News in an interview that one of the major issues here is a quest for videos.
“The department has a history of deep-sixing videos and quashing evidence,” Meiselas said.
According to police reports, Garrett and Wimbish pulled into the Subway parking lot around 11:20 p.m. searching for a suspect in an unrelated case when they saw what looked like a burglary in progress.
The officers said Alderman was behind the counter, armed with what they believed was a rifle. After ignoring orders to drop it, the officers said, he came outside wearing a black mask, and pointed a weapon at them, and they opened fire. Alderman ran back inside after being shot, according to the complaint, which cites police reports.
The weapon turned out to be a car jack. Alderman was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Police claimed there was no video of the incident.
When attorneys discovered that the restaurant had video surveillance, police acknowledged its existence but refused to hand it over, citing respect for the family’s dignity, Meiselas said.
When the video was finally released in January this year, it clearly showed Alderman being shot in the side and the back while he crouched down inside, contradicting police reports that he was standing up outside and threatening them, Meiselas said in the interview and in the complaint.
“According to the Coroner’s report, this new information came from the video surveillance,” the complaint states. It says the autopsy report indicates Alderman was shot seven times, with back-to-front entry wounds.
However, according to the complaint: “The autopsy report itself is backdated to November 2, 2015, as it references a communication with BPD Detective Ken Sporer which took place nearly a week later on November 7, 2015, further calling into question the veracity and authenticity of any document relating to the Alderman investigation.” (Italics in complaint.)
Also troubling, Meiselas said in the interview, is that the police board cleared both officers in September last year, two months before the autopsy report was finished.
“How in the world do you clear yourself before the investigation is complete? It shows what a sham that process was,” Meiselas said.
Alderman’s mother, Judy Edens, and the mothers of his two infant sons say in the complaint that only 2 minutes and 33 seconds passed between the officers’ arrival and Alderman’s death.
“BPD Officers Garret and Wimbish have divined themselves judge, jury, and executioner in their interaction with Bakersfield citizens, treating the use of lethal force as their first option during a civilian encounter and disregarding de-escalation protocol,” the complaint states.
The family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, excessive force and civil rights violations.
Meiselas said that the officers have been involved in at least two other fatal shootings, including that of 22-year-old James DeLarosa, whose corpse was manipulated by an officer who said he loved tickling corpses, and the death of the department’s own confidential informant, Jorge Ramirez.
Meiselas is with Geragos & Geragos, in Los Angeles.
Last year, Bakersfield was ranked the deadliest city in the deadliest county for police shootings per capita nationwide. By early December, 13 men had been killed, more than half of them Latino. Had the statewide killing rate been the same as Kern County, 577 people would have lost their lives at police hands in California.
Those numbers have since dropped this year, thanks in large part to lawsuits like this, Meiselas said.
“It really was an epidemic, and is still very problematic,” the attorney said.
“In an ideal world, Bakersfield would take responsibility, change its policies, and apologize to the families. In reality, there will be a trial,” Meiselas said.
“It’s the wild, wild West and there’s no accountability. Litigation is the only way to bring justice for the victims.”
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