‘He needed help not death.’ Dad with mental illness shot in back by cops, CA suit says

Courtesy of V. James DeSimone

Guillermo Medina was a good father, his wife said.

But since his killing by a police officer in Culver City, California, on Dec. 18, 2022, his children have been fatherless, lawyers said.

According to a lawsuit filed on Jan. 31 against the City of Culver City, a police officer fatally shot Medina after his wife had called for help because he was having a mental health crisis.

The officer shot Medina, who was unarmed , “repeatedly” in the back as he ran away from police at a “light jog,” says the complaint .

He died on the street after officers delayed calling for medical care, the complaint says.

The Culver City Police Department said in a press release that just after 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2022, they responded to a “domestic violence incident” involving a husband threatening his wife with a handgun.

When they arrived, the man fled in a vehicle, the release says. He then crashed into a center median and fled on foot as officers chased.

“Moments later, an officer involved shooting occurred,” the release says.

Police said the California Department of Justice and the California State Attorney General’s Office are investigating the shooting.

The police department does not comment on pending litigation, the release says.

A spokeswoman for the City of Culver City, which is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in a statement that the city could not comment because of the “pending criminal investigation, as well as pending claims and potential litigation.”

The shooting

Medina’s wife, Adriana Medina, called the Culver City Police Department at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2022, for help because her husband was having a “mental health crisis” and was banging on windows, the complaint says.

Medina had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and depressive disorder, according to the complaint.

Officers responded to the family’s home, and Medina fled in his vehicle, according to a news release from the family’s lawyers . His wife “repeatedly” told an officer who stayed back at the home to radio to his colleagues to inform them that Medina was having a mental health crisis and that she did not believe he was going to hurt anyone, according to the complaint.

Medina then crashed his vehicle, got out and tried to run away, according to the Culver City Police Department.

V. James DeSimone, the attorney representing Medina’s family in their wrongful death lawsuit, told McClatchy News the incident was captured on surveillance video.

Officers pursued Medina, and as he fled at a “light jog,” one officer shot him multiple times in the torso from behind, the complaint says. He was unarmed during the entire incident, according to the complaint.

He was still alive when he hit the ground, according to the complaint, but the officers “showed no urgency as they approached the dying man and shined flashlights into this face.” They did not give him “timely medical care” or try to resuscitate him, the complaint says.

DeSimone said that officers are not supposed to use deadly force against a fleeing person unless he or she poses an imminent threat.

“It has long been a basic rule of law enforcement that you don’t shoot someone in the back merely because they’re running away,” he said.

Culver City Police Sgt. Eddie Baskaron told NBC Los Angeles that the officer accused of shooting Medina has not been suspended.

In a statement sent to McClatchy News, he said the department plans to release a “critical incident video,” including body camera footage, and a recording of Medina’s wife’s 911 call early next week.

The lawsuit says that the officers used excessive force against Medina and asks for punitive and compensatory damages.

‘He needed help, not death’

Medina left behind a 20-year-old daughter and two sons ages 17 and 11, DeSimone said.

“They don’t have a father,” he said during a news conference. “They had a father, but Culver City Police Department took his life.”

Medina’s wife said that he was a dedicated father. He coached his son’s soccer team, cooked for his children, drove them to school and provided for them financially, she said during the news conference.

“The sudden loss of my husband has completely devastated my family and turned our lives upside down,” she said. “We cannot believe that he was taken away from us when what he really needed was help. He did not deserve to be shot in the back. He did not deserve to die in the street.”

Adriana Medina said that her children learned about their father’s death on the internet.

“(My son) said, ‘What does it mean when they put a white sheet over you?’” she said.

She lamented that he was killed during a “psychotic episode.”

“He was mentally ill, and it wasn’t his fault,” she said. “He needed help, not death.”

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