SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - A teenage boy posted on social media that he was about to kill himself, and Huntington Beach police knew it, and found his address, but did nothing to stop it, the late boy's parents claim in court.
Seventeen-year-old Matthew Cline shot himself in the head on July 17 at his home in Huntington Beach, his parents, William and Kathleen, say in the lawsuit against the City of Huntington Beach, in Superior.
Matthew was a high school senior on the varsity football team. His mother found him after she returned from the gym.
Matthew's parents say that on July 16, their son posted on iFunny: "My name is Matthew Cline. This will be my last post on ifunny as I will be committing suicide tonight."
The parents say in the complaint that Huntington Beach police knew of the post, and knew Matthew's address, but did not send a squad car to the home or warn the Clines.
Had it done so, Matthew would "be alive and well today," the Clines claim.
According to the lawsuit, Ana Gutierrez, a teenager in Los Baños, in Northern California, alerted police after reading Cline's iFunny post, then finding his Facebook page and discovering that he lived in Huntington Beach.
The parents claim that a Doe police officer, identified in the lawsuit as "Rodriguez," took the call and "lulled" Gutierrez into believing police would intervene and do everything they could to stop Matthew Cline.
Rodriguez did locate Cline's address in Huntington Beach, hours before Cline killed himself, the parents say. But police neither called the parents nor dispatched officers to the house.
Rodriguez's police report is attached to the court filing as an exhibit. It states: "I attempted 2-3 phone calls but no one answered. Due to the fact we were unable to determine where the Mathew Cline lived who made the post, no units were sent to any of the addresses we located under that name."
The parents call that a "blatant, bad-faith" lie: "Approximately 20 hours after the HBPD received the call from Gutierrez, Matthew shot himself in the head and committed suicide at his Dovewood [Drive] residence. Had the HBPD made contact by sending a unit to the Dovewood address, or even just telephoning the Clines, Matthew Cline would be alive and well today."
Responding officers "immediately recognized" Cline as the person who had posted on iFunny, and questioned neighbors about the post, the parents claim.
"In addition, HBPD claimed that they had called plaintiff William Cline's cell-phone number upon receipt of the call from Gutierrez, substantially prior to Matthew's suicide, but the Clines received no phone call to warn them, either to their cell phones or their residence phone," the complaint states.
In a September interview with the Orange County Register, police spokesman Lt. Mitchell O'Brien said the department's call volume means that police "can't follow up all the time."
"We take threats of suicide very seriously ... but it really comes down to, do we have a call for service and do we have a place to go? It's a judgment call," O'Brien said.
The Doe officer, identified as a woman in the story, was "beyond upset about this whole thing," the officer said.
"You can post on iFunny at any location in the country," O'Brien told the Register. "They weren't satisfied that the person on iFunny was the Huntington Beach resident."
The City of Huntington Beach did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The parents seek damages for negligence/failure to warn, and costs.
They are represented by Douglas Ames.