Unarmed mentally ill husband shot in back

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California widow whose husband was suffering from a mental health crisis when she called a non-emergency number for help last year sued Culver City police on Tuesday, claiming she shot her unarmed husband in the back when he ran away from officers.

Adriana Medina filed her civil rights and wrongful death complaint in the US District Court on December 18 in suburban Los Angeles for the fatal shooting of Guillermo Medina.

Medina suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and hadn’t taken his medication for a few weeks when he showed up at his house and banged on the windows, his wife said at a news conference.

She purposely avoided calling 911 and dialed the main police station number in hopes of receiving psychiatric intervention. She told police she didn’t think her husband would hurt anyone, the lawsuit says.

“That plea for help became a death sentence,” said Attorney V. James DeSimone.

A police spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation, but a press release issued after the shooting said officers were responding to a domestic violence call in which a husband threatened his wife with a gun.

“There was no report of domestic violence,” DeSimone said. “There was no report that he threatened her with a gun. She never saw a gun.”

The conflicting statements from both police and Medina’s wife, along with grainy video of the shooting, make it too difficult to determine whether the shooting was warranted, said Ed Obayashi, a deputy sheriff and aide to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office who is involved in the incidents Use of force investigations for police in California and nationwide.

Records of the call to police and what dispatchers relayed to officers are critical in determining the threat they may have perceived, he said.

“The most important factor is whether the officers faced an imminent threat,” Obayashi said. “The assumption that officers have been advised that there is a gun is a very relevant factor in determining whether lethal force is warranted.”

Guillermo Medina fled in a car when police arrived and then ran away on foot after crashing into a median, police said in a press release.

DeSimone presented surveillance video from a building that showed Medina rushing toward a power pole, then falling to his knees and rolling onto his back. Officers slowly approached and one appeared to handcuff him.

It seemed to be several minutes before first aid was administered.

The coroner’s office determined the cause of death to be homicide, DeSimone said.

The shooting is being investigated by prosecutors.

Adriana Medina said her husband was a good father who cooked for their children and coached them in youth football.

“The sudden loss of my husband has completely devastated my family and turned our lives upside down,” she said. “I can’t believe he was taken from us when he really needed help.”

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