Retired Officer Sues USA Over Fusillade

     RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) — In a lawsuit against the United States, a retired sheriff’s captain claims a U.S. Forest Service officer shot at him 16 times as he tried to drive away from a needless confrontation at a fire camp.
     In his federal lawsuit, John Gocke says Forest Service Officer Ty Davis first tried to climb into his car through the driver’s window, and when Gocke pushed him out and began to drive off, Davis fired 16 shots at him “almost killing plaintiff and causing extensive damage to plaintiff’s vehicle.”
     “At no time did plaintiff pose any threat to the general public as he was not impaired in any way while operating his vehicle, except while under fire from defendant Ty Davis’ gunfire,” Gocke says in his July 17 complaint. He calls Davis’s “decision to use deadly force” against him “per se unreasonable.”
     After being shot at, Gocke says, he got out of his car in a well-lit area, where he was “immediately set upon” by Davis and other Forest Service officers, who handcuffed and arrested him.
     He faces a felony charge of resisting an officer, punishable by up to a year in jail.
     Forest Service spokesman John C. Heil III said: “We cannot discuss litigation matters.”
     Gocke, who is retired from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, says Davis “employed deficient approach and containment tactics and immediately began making matters worse by imprudently firing into a moving vehicle causing threat of injury and death to everyone at the scene.”
     According to the complaint and several news reports, Gocke, 61, was driving to dinner on July 20, 2015, when he noticed a lot of Forest Service activity at the county fairgrounds, which were being used as a base camp to fight the North Fire. He took an alternate route to dinner, but on the way back stopped to ask what was going on.
     The officer he asked turned out to be Davis, who had “a confrontational attitude” and asked for identification. Gocke showed him his badge.
     Then, “for no apparent reason,” Gocke says, Davis told him to get out of his car.
     “Plaintiff, seeing no reason for defendant Ty Davis’ demand that he exit his vehicle, decided to leave the scene to avoid further problems,” the complaint states.
     Gocke’s attorney, J. Pat Ferraris with Disenhouse Law in Riverside, told Courthouse News: “You’re not required to get out of your car … unless [police] have probable cause” of a crime.
     As Gocke drove away at 5 to 10 mph, he says, Davis jumped into the moving car “without provocation.”
     The Forest Service said in a statement last year that Gocke had been “non-compliant,” and then “attempted to flee and dragged the officer along with the fleeing vehicle.”
     “The officer fired his weapon, striking subject’s vehicle numerous times, but no one was injured,” according to the Forest Service statement.
     The .40 caliber bullets from Davis’s Glock 22 model handgun took out a tire and the rear window of Gocke’s Subaru Outback.
     After Gocke gave up, he was turned over to the sheriff’s department, which released him a few hours later.
     He was arrested and charged with the felony in late April, soon after Ferraris filed a formal claim with the government.
     “I wouldn’t put it past individuals to have put pressure on the district attorney’s office” to file the charges, Ferraris said .
     In addition to Davis, Gocke sued the United States, the Forest Service and its governmental parent, the Department of Agriculture. He seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, negligence, battery, malicious prosecution and failure to train and supervise.

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