The families of two men killed in separate Sacramento-area confrontations with law enforcement in November 2016 have filed federal civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive force and wrongful death in the incidents.
The lawsuits stem from the shooting death of a young man inside a Carmichael 7-Eleven store by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the death of a motorist involved in a scuffle with Elk Grove police. Both were filed this week by Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz.
The first came on Thanksgiving Day 2016 as Logan Augustine, a 17-year-old high school senior from West Sacramento, was being driven to a family dinner with his father, Robert.
The lawsuit refers to Logan Augustine as a “troubled young man” who had struggled in school from learning disabilities and may have once been diagnosed as being bipolar.
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“Logan was acting strangely but had not expressed any suicidal thoughts or articulated what was bothering him,” the lawsuit says. “While the car was stopped at the intersection of Marconi and Walnut, Logan got out of the passenger’s side of his father’s pickup truck and walked into a nearby 7-Eleven store.”
Inside the store, Augustine “was disjointed and appeared disoriented,” the lawsuit says, adding that he called 911 several times on his cellphone. That brought deputies to the store, where Sgt. James Schaefers was first on the scene and determined that Augustine “was mentally distraught and not actively engaged in criminal activity,” the lawsuit says.
Schaefers summoned additional deputies and asked that a non-lethal weapon be brought to the scene, the lawsuit says. Deputy Joseph Campoy arrived with a long rifle that fired rubber bullets.
“Things did not go well after Schaefers and the additional deputies contacted Logan inside the 7-Eleven store,” the lawsuit says, with Augustine becoming more agitated.
“The deputies cornered Logan in the back of the store at which point he took out a pocket knife and held it up towards his throat,” the lawsuit says. At that point, Campoy fired a rubber bullet that struck Augustine, who was stunned and turned slightly, according to the lawsuit.
“Even though Logan did not pose a risk of harm to the deputies or to any other person at that time, Sgt. Schaefers then fired one shot from his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, striking Logan and killing him,” the lawsuit says.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Shaun Hampton declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, but noted that the shooting remains under review by the county inspector general’s office.
At the time of the incident, the sheriff’s department said that in his 911 calls Augustine was belligerent and had talked of his hatred for police. Officials also described a different set of circumstances, saying Augustine was stabbing himself in the throat with his knife and was bleeding profusely after striking an artery.
A deputy fired a rubber bullet to try to disable him, but Augustine grew more agitated and another officer who feared for his safety fired a single shot, officials said at the time.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and in a September report concluded “that the shooting was lawful.”
That report found that Augustine had consumed two to three beers before the confrontation and “was very emotional and his father felt he was acting strange.” The review also found that when deputies approached the door Augustine put his hands in his pockets and shouted, “I got a gun, I got a gun.”
As Augustine slashed at his neck with the pocket knife, the review found, the deputies screamed at him to stop and drop the knife, and Campoy fired the rubber bullet when Augustine walked toward him.
Schaefers heard the rubber bullet “pop” and didn’t know if Augustine was firing a gun, and he fired when he believed Augustine “was going to quickly approach and stab him,” the review found. Investigators later recovered a plastic airsoft gun on the floor near the front of the store, according to the DA’s report.
The autopsy concluded Augustine died from “multiple injuries” and found multiple stab wounds to Augustine’s neck up to 6 1/2 inches long and 3 inches wide, as well as a gunshot wound “on the lateral aspect of the right back.”
“The direction is right to left, back to front, and upward,” the autopsy determined.
Family files suit in fatal Elk Grove confrontation
The second lawsuit involves an incident that occurred six days later in Elk Grove, where motorist Daniel Landeros died after a confrontation with police.
Landeros, a father of five and a tile setter, was driving on Elk Grove Boulevard when his truck hit two other vehicles, the lawsuit says. No one was injured, but two Elk Grove police officers at a nearby traffic stop, Steven Holstad and Samuel Schafer, saw the accident and approached the scene, the lawsuit says.
At that point, Landeros, 41, got out of his truck and began walking away, then stopped and exchanged words with the officers before moving away more quickly, the lawsuit says.
“When Daniel stopped again, he faced the officers and Officer Schafer deployed his Taser which caused Daniel to fall to the pavement,” the lawsuit says. “Schafer deployed two full, five-second cycles of the Taser.”
The lawsuit says at least six more officers responded and flipped Landeros face-down onto the pavement, then “jumped on him violently” and piled their weight on him “thereby interfering with his ability to breathe.”
“The officers’ actions caused Daniel to stop breathing,” the lawsuit says. “None of the officers or responding fire department personnel were able to revive him.”
Elk Grove police spokesman Christopher Trim said Wednesday that the department has not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined comment.
At the time of Landeros’ death, Trim described the incident as stemming from officers responding to a call of a driver running red lights and driving the wrong way on westbound Elk Grove Boulevard before colliding with three vehicles and causing minor to moderate injuries.
Trim also said at the time that Landeros took a fighting stance toward officers and eventually struggled with them before he was taken to the ground and handcuffed.
The coroner listed Landeros’ cause of death as “sudden death during restraint and methamphetamine intoxication” and said it stemmed from Landeros being “involved in an accident while under the influence of methamphetamine and had a prolonged episode of physical exertion.”
The District Attorney’s review, completed in July, found an amount of methamphetamine at a “toxic level” and concluded there was “no credible evidence to support an allegation of criminal negligence or excessive force” by officers.
“To the contrary, the objective evidence supports a finding that the officers’ conduct was reasonable given the circumstances they encountered,” the report stated.
The review included video taken by one officer’s body camera and another in-car camera, as well as video from Elk Grove traffic cameras.