FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - Sheriff's officers in California's Central Valley shot and killed a 76-year-old man as he sat in his vehicle on the side of the road suffering from a diabetic episode, the man's family says in Federal Court.
Plaintiffs Stacey Berbereia, Daniel Hanson and Kimberly Niz filed a lawsuit against Kings County and three officers on Tuesday, asserting civil rights and wrongful death claims in connection to the fatal shooting of their father, Albert Hanson, Jr., last year.
On April 26, 2015, Albert Hanson decided to go squirrel shooting, as he frequently did with permission of certain landowners, his family says.
They believe that while he was on route, Hanson had a diabetic episode and pulled off the road near the west bank of a canal.
Hanson had firearms in his vehicle for the purpose of squirrel shooting, but never used one during the incident or brandished a firearm at anyone, his family says.
"Instead, Mr. Hanson remained in the driver's seat of his vehicle and reasonably appeared to be someone who was either ill or emotionally distressed," his family says.
The Kings County Sheriff's Office dispatched deputies to the location of Hanson's vehicle in an apparent response to a citizen's report, the complaint says.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter also went to the scene and the helicopter personnel reported to officers that the person in the driver's seat of the vehicle was possibly sleeping, according to the complaint.
One of the deputies on the scene ordered Hanson to exit the vehicle with his hands up, but Hanson remained in the vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel, his family says.
The deputy, who reported he was able to see a person in the driver's seat but nothing else, requested backup and waited for additional units to arrive, the complaint says.
When the sheriff's SWAT team arrived and took control of the scene, "things quickly escalated, although Mr. Hanson presented no more of a threat then than he had previously," the family says.
Hanson remained largely unresponsive in his vehicle, never attempted to exit the vehicle, and was never observed wielding a firearm in a manner indicating he was an imminent threat, according to his family.
"Despite the plethora of tactical options and strategic advantages possessed by law enforcement personnel on scene, deadly force was exercised as the first and only considered option, and in the absence of apparent justification," the family says.
Several SWAT members - including the identified defendants Deputy Taylor Lopes, Detective Marius Barsteceanu and Deputy Thomas Olson - fired a total of 47 shots at the vehicle. Eleven of the shots struck Hanson, according to the complaint.
"Mr. Hanson died at the scene without any effort made to tend to his injuries," his family says.
According to news stories following the incident, the sheriff's office said it responded to Hanson's vehicle after a farmworker reported that Hanson had two rifles and was making obscure comments.
The sheriff's office told news outlets that Hanson was holding a rifle with a scope and fired off a round in an unknown direction while the SWAT team was trying to negotiate with him, prompting the officers to return fire.
The Kings County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment.
Hanson's family is represented by Kevin Little, who also did not respond to a late request for comment on Wednesday.
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