Sacramento County poised to pay $7 million in wrongful-death settlement over deputy shooting

Sacramento County is set to pay $7 million to the family of a man who was shot and killed in front of their Citrus Heights home by sheriff’s deputies in 2016, as part of a settlement stemming from a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Chad Irwin, who had expressed suicidal thoughts earlier in the day and was under the influence of alcohol and prescription pain medication, was killed by Officer James Spurgeon on Aug. 18, 2016, according to a 2017 Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office review of the case.

His wife, Allison Irwin, had initially left a hang-up call with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, worried about her husband who had left the house earlier that night. She explained to the deputies who arrived that her husband was emotionally and mentally unstable, and in need of medical assistance.

But when Chad Irwin returned holding a knife, he told deputies “I know what this is. You guys are going to kill me,” and took three steps towards them, witnesses told investigators. Spurgeon, a 14-year veteran at the time, then fired 11 rounds, and struck Irwin seven times.

Allison Irwin filed a lawsuit in March 2017, arguing that because the deputies knew of Irwin’s mental state, Spurgeon’s actions were negligent and reckless.

“They knew that he was dealing with depression and that he had been drinking,” Roger Dreyer, the attorney representing Irwin’s family, previously told The Bee. “This is not somebody that was engaged in a criminal act. This is someone who was in need of help.”

A representative from Sacramento County Counsel declined to comment.

Spurgeon said in a legal deposition in the Irwin family’s lawsuit that when Irwin approached him with a knife, he feared for his life. Spurgeon said Irwin was 8 to 10 feet from him when he fired. Deputy David Conger, the other responding deputy at the scene, said in his deposition that Irwin was at least 15 feet away.

The DA’s Office determined the shooting was lawful because Spurgeon had good reason to believe Irwin would either kill or seriously injure him or Conger.

“When Irwin brandished the knife with the blade facing out and advanced toward the deputies from only a short distance away, deputy Spurgeon made a split-second decision to fire his handgun at Irwin to defend himself and deputy Conger,” a summary of the shooting review read.

The settlement, reached Jan. 11, according to court records, is conditional on the approval of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

The $7 million payout is likely the largest in recent years for Sacramento County related to use-of-force cases.

Sacramento County agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a 2004 case by Jennifer Graham, whose leg was torn by a sheriff’s K-9 dog, and in 2009, the county paid $1.45 million in the wrongful-death case of William Francis Sams, who died in the county jail in 2006 after suffering from a perforated ulcer.

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