The household of a person fatally shot by a police officer who was dismissed and charged this week will file a wrongful loss of life declare in opposition to Modesto, an legal professional mentioned Friday.
Modesto introduced Thursday that police officer Joseph Lamantia was fired from his job and faces a prison cost in his December deadly capturing of Trevor Seever, an unarmed 29-year-old whose household had referred to as 911 searching for assist.
“The actions of Officer Joseph Lamantia on December 29, 2020, didn’t meet the excessive requirements our neighborhood, our division and I demand of our officers,” interim police Chief Brandon Gillespie mentioned in a information launch. “The loss of life of Trevor Seever is a tragedy for his household, pals, and our neighborhood.
“The women and men of the Modesto Police Division work arduous day-after-day to construct and preserve optimistic relationships. I perceive Officer Lamantia’s actions have set us again. Our division is devoted to serving the general public and dedicated to rebuilding any belief we’ve misplaced.”
The Stanislaus County District Lawyer’s workplace charged Lamantia on Thursday with voluntary manslaughter and he appeared in courtroom within the afternoon. He pleaded not responsible. His bail was set at $100,000 and he was taken into custody.
He was now not listed in custody as of late Thursday afternoon, based on the county’s jail web site. Lamantia is dealing with three, six or 11 years in jail if convicted, based on the district legal professional’s workplace. His subsequent courtroom date is June 17.
Modesto legal professional Bob Fores represents Seever’s household and he issued a information launch Friday on behalf of the household.
“The times and months since December 29 have been extraordinarily painful for the household,” it states. “… Whereas the household is grateful that Officer Lamantia is being criminally prosecuted, the household nonetheless feels that Officer Lamantia ought to face the extra critical cost of homicide … .
“It’s a troublesome time for a household who helps regulation enforcement however who misplaced a son and brother on account of an unjustified and avoidable deadly capturing. The household acknowledges and appreciates the function that regulation enforcement performs in defending our neighborhood, however the unlucky circumstances resulting in Trevor’s wrongful loss of life spotlight the intense want for reform and accountability.”
Fores mentioned in a telephone interview that the household plans on submitting a wrongful loss of life declare in opposition to Modesto inside a month.
Chief can not recall one other termination
Gillespie has been with the Modesto Police Division for almost 20 years and, when requested, mentioned he couldn’t recall one other officer who misplaced his job or was criminally charged in an officer-involved capturing throughout his time with the division.
Lamantia, 35, had been on paid administrative depart because the capturing. The Police Division couldn’t hearth him whereas it performed its investigation and he pursued his due course of rights, together with his proper to a listening to, which was held Monday.
He’s represented by the Goyette & Associates regulation agency. “We strongly imagine this was a superbly justifiable officer concerned capturing,” Paul Goyette, the agency’s founder, mentioned in a telephone interview.
Goyette mentioned Lamantia acted appropriately based mostly on his Police Division coaching, the data he was given on the time about Seever and the potential risk Seever posed to others.
Whereas Seever’s household had called 911 on Dec. 29 to report that he mentioned he had purchased a gun the night time earlier than and that he had made imprecise threats in opposition to his household, Seever was not armed. The household additionally has disputed how police have characterised Seever and the hazard he posed.
And a nationwide use of drive skilled who reviewed Lamantia’s physique digicam footage mentioned he discovered the officer’s actions troubling.
“He must be alert to the (report of the) gun, however the first transfer shouldn’t be to shoot the person, which is what it seems to be,” mentioned Phil Stinson, a professor and criminologist at Ohio’s Bowling Inexperienced State College and a former police officer, in a Bee story published in January. Stinson mentioned it was troublesome to find out from the footage, however it seems Seever was attempting to get away.
Officer had different choices
Stinson mentioned the officer had different choices, together with following Seever at a protected distance and telling different officers the place the person was heading. He mentioned Lamantia gave the impression to be 40 to 50 yards from Seever when he opened hearth.
Lamantia fired seven photographs.
“It’s very troublesome to say with one video, however it doesn’t seem the officer confronted an imminent risk of significant bodily damage or lethal drive,” Stinson mentioned.
The choice to fireside Lamantia comes after the Police Division accomplished an investigation of the capturing. The division’s Use of Power Assessment Board decided Lamantia’s conduct and use of lethal drive violated division coverage, procedures and coaching and advisable his employment be terminated, based on the information launch.
Gillespie upheld that advice and fired Lamantia on Thursday morning. Lamantia had been a Modesto officer since 2008, and this was his first job in regulation enforcement. He had been concerned in three other deadly officer concerned shootings since 2010. These shootings had been decided to be justified and inside division coverage.
Gillespie declined to say how Lamantia’s conduct and use of drive violated division coverage, procedures and coaching. He mentioned the district legal professional’s workplace has requested that data not be revealed with the intention to defend the prison case whereas it’s pending.
Expenses in two different officer shootings
District legal professional’s workplace spokesman John Goold might recall solely two different instances wherein Stanislaus County prosecutors filed expenses in opposition to officers concerned in shootings. Each had been deadly and occurred when the officers had been off obligation.
Prosecutors charged off-duty federal officer Robert Anthony Moreno in a 2012 deadly capturing outdoors a Modesto bar. Moreno pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter. And prosecutors charged Kari Abbey in a 2010 deadly capturing when she was off obligation as a Stanislaus County sheriff’s detective. A choose dismissed the homicide cost in opposition to Abbey, figuring out she had fired her gun in self-defense. The case was resolved with Abbey pleading no contest to 2 misdemeanor expenses.
A law that started in January 2020 restricts deadly drive by an officer to when it’s “essential in protection of human life” as perceived by a “cheap” officer and based mostly on the “totality of circumstances.” It additionally emphasizes deescalation as an efficient different to deadly drive.
For extra then a century earlier than that cops might use lethal drive based mostly extra merely on a “cheap perception” that an officer or one other individual is in imminent hazard.
DA gained’t touch upon new customary
Goold mentioned the district legal professional’s workplace wouldn’t touch upon how the brand new regulation affected prosecutors’ determination to cost Lamantia.
“I’m afraid that any feedback concerning our decision-making course of would require us to be making statements in regards to the information of the case,” Goold mentioned in an e-mail. “… We’re reserving our statements on information for the courtroom.”
Seever’s mom, Darlene Ruiz, mentioned she and Seever’s brother Kyle and sister Allison couldn’t remark as a result of they anticipate to be referred to as as witnesses in Lamantia’s case.
Town’s information launch states District Lawyer Birgit Fladager, Gillespie and Mayor Sue Zwahlen met with Seever’s household earlier than Thursday’s announcement. “We mourn alongside the Seever household and now start the method of therapeutic our neighborhood,” Zwahlen mentioned within the launch.
Seever’s household and others even have referred to as for a civilian oversight panel for the Police Division. The information launch states Zwahlen has referred to as for an “engagement course of to think about the neighborhood’s curiosity in (the) Modesto Police Division’s insurance policies and practices.”
The discharge states that course of contains forming a committee, holding “an preliminary listening session to listen to from the neighborhood to stipulate areas of concern” and that the committee would supply suggestions to the Metropolis Council inside six to 12 months.
Household helps reviewing police practices
In his information launch Fores, the legal professional representing the Seever household, said: “The household appears ahead to the implementation of newly elected Modesto Metropolis Mayor Sue Zwahlen’s plans to interact the neighborhood with the intention to enhance MPD insurance policies and practices.
“(Thursday’s) actions gained’t deliver Trevor again. Nonetheless, they need to assist relations and the Modesto neighborhood start the essential first steps towards bettering relations between our Police Division and our neighborhood, holding the Metropolis and regulation enforcement accountable for his or her actions, and making Modesto a greater place to stay. Justice for Trevor!”
Among the many different shootings Lamantia had been concerned in:
- In a 2010 incident, a 45-year-old man was shot and killed after officers, together with Lamantia, had been referred to as to the scene after it was reported Francisco Moran, was intoxicated, belligerent and armed with a knife. He was armed with a metallic spatula.
- In 2016, Lamantia was one of many officers concerned within the deadly capturing of a suspect throughout a drug bust in Turlock. The suspect, Omar Villagomez, rammed an undercover car in attempting to flee, police mentioned.
- In one other 2016 fatal shooting, a girl, Kim Jackson, who police say charged police with knives, was shot and killed by officers, together with Lamantia.
- Lamantia additionally had an element in a nonfatal officer-involved shooting in October when officers opened hearth on an armed murder suspect in Stockton. The suspect, David Cummings Jr., 27, was wished in a double murder close to downtown Modesto a couple of days earlier.
Lamantia additionally has been acknowledged for his service. He was among the many two sergeants and eight officers who had been honored at a 2014 Metropolis Council assembly for rescuing a ladies from her dwelling throughout an armed standoff along with her boyfriend.
The Bee additionally reported that 12 months how Lamantia helped out a Modesto woman by paying almost $500 to switch a window within the girl’s automotive that had been shattered by thieves.
Bee reporter Lydia Gerike contributed to this report.