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Gulf War Veteran Fatally Shot 14 Times by Lodi Police Officers

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If the two City of Lodi Police Officer had been trained how to deal with violent, armed schizophrenic individuals, Parminder Shergill, a 37 year old Gulf War veteran, might still be alive today. Instead Mr. Shergill died on January 25, 2015 from 14 shots fired by the two police officers after he did not comply with their request to stop after they found him walking down a street in Lodi.

Less than two minutes

“One minute and forty-three seconds elapsed between the beginning of the Officer Defendants encounter with Parminder and the time Parminder was shot. (ECF No. 164-2 at ¶ 126.)  The officers had left their beanbag shotguns in their vehicles and did not think they had time to deploy the less-than-lethal weapons they had on their utility belts once Parminder abruptly turned towards them. (ECF No. 164-2 at ¶¶ 78-80.)

Training didn't help

Ironically, the officers attended a county Mental Health In-Service Training at the Lodi Police Department the day before the shooting. (ECF No. 164-2 at ¶ 131.) This training covered the criteria for a Welfare and Institutions Code § 5150 ("Section 5150") hold. (ECF No. 164-2 at ¶ 132.) However, the officers were not specifically trained on how to approach, speak to, or interact with violent, armed schizophrenic individuals on that occasion. (ECF No. 164-2 at ¶ 133.)” Sukhwinder KAUR, et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF LODI, et al., Defendants, 263 F.Supp.3d 947 (2017).

PTSD and schizophrenia diagnosis

Mr. Shergill was no stranger to the Lodi Police Department according to press reports.1 He had come home from the Gulf War and Iraq and been diagnosed with PTSD and schizophrenia. Police had been called at least five times to the house that he shared with his family including his mother and brother. Mr. Shergill had been treated and even hospitalized for mental hospital but had stopped taking his medication recently. 

A 911 call ends in tragedy

The morning of his death he was agitated and his sister in law had contacted authorities via a 911 call to report that he was threatening his mother. By the time the officers arrived he had left the house and was walking down the street. Several witnesses countered the two officers’ story that Mr. Shergill had moved quickly towards them with something in his hand, thus necessitating their actions.

No answers triggers federal civil rights lawsuit

After not having their questions answered or responded to by the Lodi Police Department, the family of Mr. Shergill hired Mark Merin, a Sacramento civil rights’ attorney, who filed a Sec. 1983 lawsuit in federal court to get the answers they needed to their question of what exactly happened that day. This allowed the plaintiff’s attorney the opportunity to depose the officers and other adverse parties and to seek documents that the Lodi Police were not willing to hand over voluntarily.

“The family brought eight claims against the officers that are included in the third amended complaint ("TAC") (ECF No. 88). The First Claim — excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") — is brought by Sukhwinder, as successor in interest to Parminder. The Second Claim — intentional or reckless provocation in violation of the Fourth Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 — is also brought by Sukhwinder, as successor in interest to Parminder. The Third Claim — deprivation of familial association in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 — is brought by Sukhwinder, individually. The Fourth Claim — deprivation of familial association in violation of the First Amendment pursuant to Section 1983 — is brought by Plaintiffs. The Ninth Claim3 — negligence (survival action) under California law — is brought by Sukhwinder, as successor in interest to Parminder. The Tenth Claim — negligence (wrongful death) under California law — is brought by Sukhwinder, individually. The Eleventh Claim — negligent infliction of emotional distress under California law — is brought by Sukhwinder, as successor in interest to Parminder. The Twelfth Claim — interference with civil rights under California law — is brought by Sukhwinder, as successor in interest to Parminder.

The officers [who had been sued along with the City Defendants] moved for summary judgment on each claim. (ECF No. 164.) The officers argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on each of Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claims. (ECF No. 164-1 at 20.)” because of their status as police officers.

Judge rules for the family

In a 49-page decision, issued on June 30, 2017, Judge Nunley of the Eastern District of the California District Court ruled against almost of the officer and City of Lodi’s claims of qualified immunity and denied their Motion for Summary Judgment.

“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the officers' conduct violated Parminder's Fourth Amendment rights and it was "clearly established" that such conduct constituted a Fourth Amendment violation at the time of the officers deadly encounter with Parminder. See Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866. Therefore, their argument they are entitled to qualified immunity on this claim at the summary judgment stage must be denied.

Shooting a fleeing, unarmed man

As described above, a jury could conclude that the officers shot to death a man who at most committed a misdemeanor, was not fleeing, had not armed himself with a weapon, was not threatening the officers or anyone else, and asked them not to shoot him. As the Ninth Circuit has observed, "few things in our case law are as clearly established as the principle that an officer may not `seize an unarmed, non-dangerous suspect by shooting him dead' in the absence of `probable cause to believe that the [fleeing] suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.'" Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1128 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Garner, 471 U.S. at 11, 105 S.Ct. 1694)”

Large settlement for the family

After the Judge issued his opinion, the case moved to the jury trial stage to determine questions of fact while the parties engaged in settlement negotiations. In April 2018, the family of Mr. Shergill agreed to a $2.65 million dollars settlement of their claims.

If you have a legal issue you need help with, the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky Law PC would love to share their expertise with you. Please call (303) 543-1958.

 

About the AuthorKimberly Craven

Kimberly Craven is a passionate, highly-motivated Indian law and policy expert who has a wealth of experience when it comes to assisting Tribal peoples to protect their rights, save their homelands and dramatically improve their standards of living. In particular, she has in-depth expertise in issues that have proven to have a significant impact on that critical government-to-government relationship. Her sage counsel has been sought by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Colorado, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court in South Dakota as well as the Hopi Tribe in Arizona. Kimberly served as the Executive Director for the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs where she was responsible for managing the intergovernmental relationship between the State of Washington and the 29 federally recognized Tribes within the State’s boundaries. In the capacity of fighting for Tribal rights, she has also served as a General Attorney, Chief Judge, and Associate Magistrate. Plus, she has worked tirelessly for a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to improving social and economic conditions for Native peoples, including one that successfully defended Tribal treaty fishing rights for the Columbia River in Oregon. In addition, she has handled a wide variety of Indian Child Welfare cases. Kimberly earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Colorado School of Law and then went on to complete her L.L.M. in Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy from the University of Arizona. When Kimberly isn’t exercising her right to champion causes for Tribal peoples, she enjoys exercising, cooking and curling up with a good book.

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