Lodi officers who shot Army vet say they feared for their lives
08/08/2014 11:51 AM
08/08/2014 11:05 PM
As they set out in search of Army veteran Parminder Singh Shergill on a Saturday morning in late January, Lodi police officers Scott Bratton and Adam Lockie had several concerns, according to newly released court documents.
They told investigators they felt certain that, as a military man, Shergill was trained in the use of firearms and other weapons.
They said they knew from his family that he had screamed and pushed his mother before leaving home in an agitated state.
They were aware that Shergill, 43, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, and likely was off his medications.
All of those issues were on their minds as they confronted Shergill in a park around the corner from his mother’s home on Elderica Way, the veteran officers said in documents released Friday.
So when Shergill turned and “charged” them with a knife, Bratton and Lockie said, they feared for their safety and the safety of Shergill’s family. They killed him in a barrage of 14 bullets that struck him in the abdomen, chest, arm, legs, jaw and back, according to an autopsy report included in the court documents.
The two officers recounted the dramatic scene in separate statements to a Lodi police detective and a San Joaquin County District Attorney investigator hours after the shooting.
Two witnesses recounted the scene differently, according to the documents released Friday. They told the same two investigators that they did not see a knife in Shergill’s hands, and that they never saw him “charge” the officers.
Their statements are part of a voluminous file of information being gathered in the aftermath of Shergill’s death.
The shooting has spurred investigations by multiple agencies, and a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Lodi and its Police Department. Shergill’s death also has prompted questions and concern in Lodi’s sizable Sikh community, of which Shergill’s relatives are members.
Mark Merin, the Sacramento lawyer representing the family in the lawsuit, fought Lodi in court for public disclosure of information related to the case. On Friday a federal magistrate judge rejected the city’s efforts to keep the documents confidential, allowing Merin to release them to The Sacramento Bee.
Bratton, a corporal and 14-year veteran of the Police Department, paused to gather his emotions several times during his interview with investigators, according to the documents.
He and Lockie, who has worked for the department since 1999, told interviewers they were immediately concerned when they arrived at the home on Elderica Way on Jan. 25. The family had contacted police after Shergill had a mental episode and left the house.
A Toyota pickup parked in the driveway had two stickers in the back window: one reading “.223,” referring to a powerful caliber bullet; and one that said “Don’t Tread On Me.” Family members told the officers about Shergill’s military background and his mental issues, according to a summary of the officers’ statements. They were told he had shouted about “random things” that morning, including Iraq, Social Security and locked doors, and shoved his mother before leaving the house. Relatives also told the officers the family had guns but that they were locked up.
Shergill’s mother asked the officers to find her son and deliver him to a mental health facility, according to the summary.
Bratton and Lockie found Shergill nearby at Peterson Park. He was walking “very deliberate and with purpose,” Bratton said, and ignored the officer’s demands to stop and talk.
As Shergill turned onto Elderica Way, he pulled a “black folding tactical knife” from his pocket, Bratton said. Bratton commanded that he “drop the weapon,” he told investigators. Both officers drew their guns.
Bratton said Shergill cursed at them “in a war cry” voice and, holding the knife in his right hand, threatened to kill them as he approached.
“Shergill wasn’t running,” a summary of Lockie’s statement said, “But from 20 feet away he had a full head of steam” coming toward the officers.
Both officers opened fire, first striking Shergill in the upper body. “Because the gunshots to the chest or body weren’t stopping Shergill from attacking them, Corporal Bratton shot at his head,” according to the summary.
“Corporal Bratton fired his last shot at Shergill’s head from approximately seven feet away, which caused Shergill to finally stop and fall to his knees and drop the knife,” the summary recounted. Bratton “applied pressure” to Shergill’s chest wounds while Lockie called an ambulance. Bratton recalled having Shergill’s blood on his hands when paramedics arrived.
The officers never had the opportunity to use “less than lethal force, such as pepper spray,” on Shergill because “it happened too fast,” Lockie said. The officers “didn’t have the option of allowing Shergill to get back to his house out of fear he would harm his family.”
Shergill’s relatives, in statements taken after his death, said he had served in the Gulf War and suffered from frightening delusions that took him back to Iraq. On the morning he died, “he was screaming and pacing back and forth through the house,” according to family members.
His mother, Sukhwinder Kaur, “only wanted the police officers to take Parminder to the hospital for his own safety,” she told an investigator. He had received care at mental health clinics and once spent six months at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto for his psychiatric problems, she said, but had refused to take his medications during the past year.
Two witnesses to the shooting told investigators they knew Shergill from his long walks through the neighborhood, and described him as friendly and quiet.
Cassandra Lopez, who lives a few houses down from the Shergill family, was still shaken when investigators interviewed her on the evening of the shooting at the department store where she works.
“I’ve never seen anybody get shot before and killed,” she told investigators. “I mean, you see that on TV, but you don’t see it in real life.”
Lopez said she was in her upstairs bedroom that morning when she heard someone shout, “Put down your weapon,” according to the court documents. She peered out the window and watched the scene unfold.
“When Shergill turned around, she didn’t see a weapon,” a summary of her statement reads.
Shergill was walking, with officers following him, she recalled in her interview. “They told him, ‘Turn around now,’ ” she said. “And so he turned around, and both of them were shooting him, and they kept shooting and shooting.”
She said Shergill’s “hands were down” at the time, and she did not hear or see him threaten the officers.
“There was nothing she saw that explained to her why the police shot Shergill,” the summary says, although Lopez said she did see a knife on the ground after he fell.
Another witness, Robert Mendes, told the detective who interviewed him that he was standing in his driveway on Elderica when he saw Shergill and the officers “yelling back and forth” as they walked down the street.
Shergill “seemed to have his hand up” but Mendes did not see a weapon, he said.
He heard an officer shout “Get back or I’ll shoot,” he recalled. “I kind of didn’t expect him to shoot, but he did.”
Later that evening, Mendes told the detective, he watched a news report in which police said Shergill “charged” at the officers with a knife. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, that was a very loose charge. ...’ I mean, a charge to me is full force That kind of moving was not a charge.”
The detective asked whether his vision had been obstructed by a car or other objects, “or was it a clear shot?”
“This one was a clear shot,” he said.
Sacto 911 StaffBill Lindelof
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