LOS ANGELES (CN) – An attorney for the family of a teen shot and killed by officers responding to his 911 distress call warned the jury in closing arguments Tuesday that the officers could unlawfully kill civilians in the future.
“These officers are gonna get people killed because they don’t follow the rules,” Attorney Darryl Exum said. “Their mistake started when they left the station.”
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies Michael Hamilton and Rosa Calderon responded to a call on May 4, 2016 that 18-year-old Matthew Tucker was depressed and suicidal.
When the officers arrived, Matthew’s mother, Jenny Tucker, told them her son was depressed, had a knife and was seeking “suicide by cop.”
Exum, who represents the Tucker family, said deadly force should’ve been “the last option,” especially since they knew Tucker wanted to kill himself.
He told jurors the officers failed to avoid a fatal confrontation even though their training told them “suicide-by-cop” meant Tucker would likely provoke them.
Tony Sain of Manning & Kass, representing the officers and Riverside County, closed by arguing the officers tried to deescalate the situation by calling out to Tucker and asking him to talk to them.
Hamilton and Calderon didn’t call for support from officers trained in crisis intervention or enter the home holding Tasers because they weren’t trained to do so, Sain said, adding that tensions would’ve escalated if Tucker saw the Tasers.
According to Sain, Tucker was “the only person responsible” for his death, and the officers had to kill him to protect themselves.
“The alternative is chaos,” Sain said. “It was Matthew’s plan to not let [the officers] help him.”
Exum countered the officers should’ve communicated a plan before entering and should not have allowed Tucker’s mother to walk through the home looking for her son.
“Their lack of communication led to more problems,” Exum said. “The family shouldn’t have been in there.”
Sain said the officers’ priority was to “secure the threat first” and make sure other people in the area are out of harm’s way.
When he was killed, Tucker’s family was planning to move back to Arizona from their home in Temecula in Riverside County, Jenny Tucker said in an interview.
She said Matthew was compassionate, loved horses and worked at a local feed store.
“He would always help others and think about how to support people,” Jenny Tucker said. “In the moment he needed help, he wasn’t given the chance.”
Jurors will now decide whether the officers violated Tucker’s constitutional rights when they killed him.
The jury indicated it would continue deliberations Wednesday morning.