The family of a man shot dead by Sacramento police last month filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday saying he was victim of excessive force and didn’t need to die.
On July 11, Joseph Mann, 51, was shot at least 16 times after officers responded to reports of a man acting erratically and armed with a gun near Del Paso Boulevard, the complaint says.
Mann, who did not have a gun, was displaying “obvious signs of mental distress,” weaving back and forth across the street and doing karate moves as he walked away from officers, it says.
Instead of giving Mann space, calling a mental health counselor or using less-than-lethal force, as police are trained to do, the officers “rushed toward Decedent Mann provoking a close range confrontation,” says the lawsuit, filed by Oakland attorney John Burris in the Sacramento-based U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
“Tragically, The Officers shot Decedent Mann at least sixteen (16) times, tattooing him from heel to chest with gunshot wounds as he feebly attempted to leave the scene. Decedent Joseph Mann died as a result of the Officers’ poor tactics and unwarranted use of excessive force,” the complaint alleges.
On Friday, the Mann family and Burris provided video of the incident that was captured by a bystander from a distance. They believe it shows police didn’t need to use deadly force.
Officers described the incident differently on the day of the shooting:
At about 9:30 a.m., on July 11, a caller reported an armed man acting erratically near the Woodlake Oaks apartment complex on Lochbrae Road, one block from Del Paso Boulevard. The caller said the man had a gun in his waistband.
Police didn’t see a gun, but the suspect – later identified as Joseph Mann – did have a knife, police spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said at the time.
Mann charged the car of the first officer on the scene, Heinlein said. To protect himself, the officer locked the doors of the patrol car. When backup arrived, officers got out of their cars and followed Mann on foot.
“He was very agitated,” Heinlein said of the armed man. “He was showing very erratic behavior.”
Mann crossed Del Paso Boulevard and “continued toward businesses,” Heinlein said. “He was noncompliant. He was not listening to any officers’ commands to stop.”
Heinlein said Mann turned toward officers and raised his knife. Two officers opened fire, hitting him multiple times. Mann later died.
On Friday, Heinlein said he could not comment on the lawsuit specifically but identified the two police officers involved in the shooting as John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, both 25-year veterans of the Sacramento Police Department.
“I just want to really stress that this incident is tragic, no matter what way you look at it,” Heinlein said. “It weighs heavy in our hearts, both for the community and the police officers involved.”
An investigation into the shooting is still underway, Heinlein said, adding that once witness interviews and reports are completed, the case would be reviewed by both the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office as well as the Sacramento Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.
Heinlein said both of the police officers were put on a three-day paid leave following the shooting and are currently working for the department on modified duty.
On Friday morning, Mann’s family, local activists and community members gathered at the Allen Chapel AME Church on Grand Avenue in Del Paso Heights for a press conference following the announcement of the lawsuit.
They urged authorities to release dash-cam videos from the shooting, which police have said they cannot do yet.
Robert Mann, Joseph Mann's brother and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, described his sibling as a longtime Sacramento resident who enjoyed music and spending time with friends. He said his brother began going through mental health issues after their mother died in 2011, but he said Joseph Mann was never violent.
“We supported him. We always supported him,” Robert Mann said. “There’s no justification for what they did.”
Danielle Williams, a community organizer with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, said the shooting of Mann was a reminder of the work that still needed to be done to improve policing in Sacramento.
“We need structural change for accountability,” she said. “The efforts around our relationship are great…but they are not a substitute for accountability.”