RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A federal jury on Wednesday cleared two California officers of excessive force claims for shooting and killing an 18-year-old whose family had called 911 for emergency support.
The jury deliberated through the morning on Wednesday and returned a verdict in the early afternoon.
Over the course of the trial, Tony Sain of Manning & Kass, who represented the officers, said they acted in accordance with their training and within legal standards for use of deadly force.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies Rosa Calderon and Michael Hamilton — who has since been promoted to sergeant — arrived at Tucker’s home on May 4, 2016, where his family told them he was depressed over a breakup and seeking “suicide by cop.”
Sain said the officers tried to deescalate the situation by calling out to Tucker and asking him to talk to them.
In their testimony, the officers said Tucker lunged at them with a knife, forcing them to shoot.
Attorney Darryl Exum, representing the Tucker family, said in closing arguments Tuesday that deadly force should’ve been “the last option,” especially since the officers knew Tucker wanted to kill himself.
They should have called for support from officers trained in crisis intervention or used Tasers to suppress Tucker, Exum said.
Sain argued in his closing statements that the officers’ priority was to “secure the threat first.” He said they weren’t trained to wait for backup when an individual could be armed and has said he wants to kill himself.
A Riverside County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Tucker, who was biracial, identified as black. His mother is white and his father is black, although the issue of race did not factor into the parties’ arguments during the trial.
Police shooting cases in California often probe the role of officers’ racial bias in their judgment and actions.
U.S District Judge Jesus Bernal presided over the trial.