Man killed while running from Modesto officer was shot 3 times: in back, chest, abdomen

The man fatally shot by a Modesto police officer in 2020 was hit by three bullets: one in his back, another in his chest and the third in his abdomen.

Dr. Sung-Ook Baik — Stanislaus County’s forensic pathologist — testified Tuesday in the preliminary hearing for former officer Joseph Lamantia, who has been charged with voluntary manslaughter in the Dec. 29, 2020, death of Trevor Seever.

Baik testified he did not know the sequence of the gunshots. He said the cause of death was blood loss.

The doctor said a toxicology screen showed Seever, 29, had a very small amount of a metabolite for cocaine in his system. The screen did not show any other drugs, such as opiates or PCP.

It was not clear from Baik’s testimony whether the screen tested for marijuana. And Seever had not been drinking.

The hearing is being held in Stanislaus County Superior Court before Judge Carrie Stephens. She will determine at the end of the hearing whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia, 37, to stand trial.

Lamantia fatally shot Seever on the grounds of the Church of the Brethren on Woodland Avenue within seconds of arriving. He was the first officer to arrive after Seever’s sister called 911 to report Seever had bought a gun the night before and “he’s walking over here and just to watch what happens to us.”

An “officer safety bulletin” was sent to the officers on duty concerning posts on Seever’s Instagram that read, “A good cop is a dead cop” and “All I want for Christmas is another dead MPD Officer.” Lamantia asked that the bulletin be emailed departmentwide.

The bulletin stated that police had numerous prior contacts with Seever while he was under the influence of alcohol and that he has been “violent, argumentative and uncooperative while drunk.”

Sgt. James Reeves, who is an internal affairs investigator, has testified that Lamantia told IA investigators he believed Seever was trying to ambush him. Lamantia said he believed when Seever was running away, he still was trying to ambush him or was trying to get to his family at a nearby church to harm them.

Seever was not armed, and other officers were on their way to the scene.

Reeves testified that Lamantia agreed that the the typical tactic used in these situations was staging, meeting other officers in order to make a plan, and setting up a perimeter to surround a suspect.

The preliminary hearing started Monday and is expected to resume next week.

Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury talks with the family of Trevor Seever outside the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Seever was killed by Modesto Police officer Joseph Lamantia in 2020. A hearing is being held before Judge Carrie Stephens to determine whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia to stand trial. Andy Alfaro/aalfaro@modbee.com
Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury talks with the family of Trevor Seever outside the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Seever was killed by Modesto Police officer Joseph Lamantia in 2020. A hearing is being held before Judge Carrie Stephens to determine whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia to stand trial. Andy Alfaro/aalfaro@modbee.com

Lamantia’s attorney, Roger Wilson, told Judge Stephens that his defense will include having an expert witness testify and as many as four other witnesses. The District Attorney’s Office is represented by Deputy District Attorneys Rick Mury and Jesus Mendoza.

Lamantia was fired from his job and charged in Seever’s death in March 2021. He is not in custody after posting bail.

Lamantia had been a Modesto officer since 2008, and this was his first job in law enforcement. He had been involved in three other fatal officer-involved shootings since 2010. Those shootings were determined to be justified and within department policy.

Joseph Lamantia leaves the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Lamantia, a former Modesto Police officer, shot and killed Trevor Seever in 2020. A hearing is being held before Judge Carrie Stephens to determine whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia to stand trial. Andy Alfaro/aalfaro@modbee.com
Joseph Lamantia leaves the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Lamantia, a former Modesto Police officer, shot and killed Trevor Seever in 2020. A hearing is being held before Judge Carrie Stephens to determine whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia to stand trial. Andy Alfaro/aalfaro@modbee.com