The family of a father in Culver City has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after a police officer shot him in the back as he fled a car chase.
Guillermo Medina’s wife and children, along with their attorney, announced the suit Tuesday, saying Medina was not armed and posed no imminent threat of death or physical harm to anyone when he was shot dead on Dec. 18 of last year. The officers also gave him no orders before shooting him, and they knew he was suffering from a mental health crisis, according to prosecutors.
“The sudden loss of my husband completely devastated my family and turned our lives upside down,” Medina’s wife, Adriana, wept as she stood beside the couple’s three children, ages 11, 17 and 20. He robbed us when what he really needed was help. He didn’t deserve to be shot in the back. He didn’t deserve to die in the street.”
The suit alleges that Adriana Medina called the Culver City Police Department at about 1 a.m. on Dec. 18 to report that her husband, who had paranoid schizophrenia, had been banging on windows while he was having a mental health crisis. At the time, Medina was off his medication and distraught, said family attorney James DeSimone, and his wife was calling for help for him.
Adriana Medina pushed back on The police alleged that the officers were called to an incident of domestic violence. She said her husband was unarmed and did not have a gun, contrary to police saying at the time that he had threatened her with a firearm.
Despite knowing he was in a crisis, the city officers approached him in a way that caused him to flee his home and lead the police in a car chase, according to DeSimone.
The lawsuit states that an unnamed officer said he would stay home with the family until “the incident is over.” Adriana Medina said she repeatedly asked the officer to use the police radio to inform colleagues that her husband was in crisis, but he failed to do so.
The chase ended when Medina crashed his SUV and the car became disabled. That’s when he got out and tried to escape. Surveillance video of the city shooting showed him fleeing. He didn’t seem to be running at a high speed, though it wasn’t clear what had happened in the previous moments. The video also does not contain any sound.
Medina was running slowly and “straining,” DeSimone said, because it was impossible for him to run fast due to spinal fusion surgery. In the video posted by the lawyer, Medina gets into frame and then quickly falls to the sidewalk after being shot. He rolls onto his back with his arms outstretched as the officers slowly approach him.
Witnesses said the officers gave the city no orders before one of them opened fire, shooting him multiple times, DeSimone said. Instead of providing immediate medical attention, the officers handcuffed Medina and left him on the ground for more than five minutes before offering assistance, the attorney said.
Paramedics eventually showed up and tried to save Medina’s life, but he passed out on the sidewalk.
Medina’s wife said the shows were not the first to inform the family of the man’s death, adding that her children had found out about the matter online.
Joshua came up to me, my youngest, and said, “What does it mean to put a white sheet on you?” That’s how our kid found out his father died, and I had to explain it to him. You should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Adriana Medina.
The lawsuit also alleges that Culver City and its police department fostered a culture of excessive force, in part, by failing to appropriately investigate incidents of use of force and failing to discipline officers who use excessive force.
The city said it could not comment due to “a pending criminal investigation, as well as pending claims and potential litigation.” The police department noted that the Department of Justice and the California Attorney General’s Office are investigating the shooting. Culver City Police Department Sgt. Eddie Pascaron confirmed to NBC4 that the officer who shot Medina was not stopped.
Pascaron added that the department plans to release a “video of a serious incident,” as well as a recording of Adriana Medina’s call to the police, in the coming days.
Medina’s family is calling for criminal charges to be filed against the officers involved in his killing. They are asking for a jury trial, as well as unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
He was remembered by his Medina family as a passionate, hardworking father who loved his children and had a good sense of humour. He was someone who took his kids to school and soccer practice. Despite his bad back, he coached the soccer team of his youngest and was also a referee, so they could all spend time with their children.
Medina cooks for the children, his wife said, and then goes to work at night as a truck driver to support his family.
“He was mentally ill and it was not his fault. He needed help, not death,” said an emotional Adriana Medina.