The family of a 23-year-old man shot to death in February by Rocklin police has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city, alleging that three officers responding to a burglary call fired seven shots into the man within seconds of arriving at the scene.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, comes four months after the Placer County District Attorney cleared the three officers of wrongdoing in the Feb. 25 shooting death of Lorenzo Antoine Cruz, who police said was shot after he pointed a replica handgun at them.
The suit, filed by Sacramento attorney Kellan Patterson on behalf of Cruz’s mother, Cheryl Cruz, and four of his siblings, notes that the officers failed to turn on their body cameras “or otherwise objectively document the encounter until after the shooting occurred.”
The lawsuit names officers John Constable, Breanna Adams and Chris Osborn as defendants and accuses the department of an “entrenched culture” that tolerates the use of excessive and deadly force.
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Rocklin police and Patterson did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday, but the department has said the officers believed Cruz had a firearm in his possession at the time he was shot.
The incident began the morning of Feb. 25 when police attempted to pull Cruz over for an expired registration at 8:39 a.m. near Sunset and Whitney boulevards. Cruz sped away and officers declined to pursue him because of the potential risk to other motorists, authorities have said.
Police later received 911 calls reporting that a motorist driving erratically had rammed into the gate of a gated community at Crest Drive and Hillcrest Road.
About 15 minutes later, authorities received another 911 call reporting that a man was trying to break into a home in the 4900 block of Bradford Place, but was rebuffed when the homeowner confronted him with a handgun.
As officers arrived at the scene, police said, they saw Cruz run and get into an unlocked Honda parked in the driveway of the home. Police say Cruz was shot after he pointed an Airsoft pistol at them that had been painted silver to look like a real pistol.
Rocklin officials later released footage of the aftermath of the shooting from body cameras that Adams and Osborn activated after the shooting.
The footage shows what appears to be bullet holes in the Honda fender and window, and includes comments from the officers regarding the pistol they saw.
The three officers returned to duty about three weeks after the shooting, and police have not disclosed whether they faced disciplinary action for not turning on their body cameras before the shooting.
The lawsuit claims the officers “had at least three minutes to activate their cameras” as they responded to the scene and that the department “failed to discipline” them. The suit also claims all three fired their weapons in the shooting.
“Within seconds into the encounter, Mr. Cruz had seven gunshot wounds,” the suit claims. “Mr. Cruz was pronounced dead at the scene.”
The lawsuit does not address police statements that Cruz had a replica handgun, but maintains that the three officers “had no legal justification for intentionally using deadly force to subdue Cruz.”
“Mr. Cruz was surrounded in a parked vehicle with nowhere to go,” the suit says.