News Article Details

Police knew unarmed man was mentally ill before fatally shooting him, lawsuit says

The Fresno Bee - 8/25/2018

Aug. 24--A fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man that was captured by a bystander's camera and sparked a protest in Tulare in March has resulted in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Anyka Harris has sued the city of Tulare, its police department and the officers who shot her 27-year-old son, Jontell Reedom.

In the lawsuit, Harris' lawyers, Dale Galipo and Bradley Kramer of Southern California, said police knew Reedom was mentally ill, so they should have used other methods to de-escalate the situation.

The lawyers are seeking damages in U.S. District Court in Fresno for excessive force, wrongful death, negligence and inadequate police training.

The shooting of Reedom, a former Tulare Union High School football standout, was captured on video by a bystander. It happened while tensions are high nationwide between law enforcement agencies and communities of color, following several high-profile police shootings of black males.

People who knew Reedom said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. During the protest in March, protesters carried signs that said "Justice for Jontell" and "Treat the Ill, Not Kill the Ill."

Police said officers were responding to a 911 call of an assault on a bus driver when they came across Reedom at Cross Avenue and Cherry Street in the afternoon of March 12.

Because Reedom refused to surrender, an officer used a Taser on him, police said. The video shows Reedom fighting with an officer, who swings a baton at Reedom while another officer uses pepper spray on him before several shots are fired.

After the shooting, interim Police Chief Barry Jones said the shots were fired after Reedom took the baton from the officer.

The lawsuit says the Tulare Police Department knew Reedom was mentally ill "and failed to use de-escalation tactics." The suit also says: "Decedent was unarmed and did not pose an immediate threat of death or seriously bodily injury to anyone at the time of the shooting."

In addition, the officers failed to warn Reedom that deadly force was going to be used.

After Reedom was shot, the lawsuits says, the officers failed to timely summon medical care or permit medical personnel to treat him. The delay of medical care was a contributing cause to Reedom's death, the lawsuit says.

Reedom's death certificate says he suffered multiple gunshot wounds; his immediate cause of death was from a gunshot wound to his head. The death certificate also says the killing was "a justifiable homicide by a peace officer."

Tulare police Capt. Matt Machado said he could not comment because he had just been notified of the lawsuit and has not yet consulted with legal counsel.

Pablo Lopez: (559) 441-6434, @beecourts


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