Why is Joseph Mann's family suing Sacramento police? 'Justification for our brother'
The five siblings of a mentally ill black man fatally shot by police in North Sacramento nearly a year ago filed a lawsuit Thursday in their continuing efforts to learn if the officers who fired the shots were disciplined, and what if any changes the department has made to lower its use of force.
“From the very beginning we’ve been asking for accountability from these officers,” said Robert Mann, brother of Joseph Mann, the 51-year-old shot by police. “It’s been almost a year now and nothing has been done. We are looking for action.”
The lawsuit is the second filed by the Mann family. Earlier this year, the city settled a suit with Mann’s father for $719,500, said Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez.
Robert Mann said he and his siblings were frustrated by that settlement because it did not include information about the officers or provide a legal framework for tracking and enforcing reforms.
“Some people can look at it and think, ‘Oh, they’re just out for money.’ You know, it’s never been about money,” Mann said of the new lawsuit. “I am never going to stop until I have no breath in me advocating for justice.”
Police Department spokeswoman Officer Linda Matthew said Wednesday that one of the officers involved in the shooting, John Tennis, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the department’s internal investigation. Previously, Tennis had been assigned to modified duty but was not on patrol, according to an earlier statement from police in January.
Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said Tennis was moved off duty on May 25 but said he could not comment on why because it was a personnel matter.
The second officer who fired shots, Randy Lozoya, retired from the force on April 1, said Heinlein.
Arturo Sanchez, Sacramento’s assistant city manager who oversees public safety, said the city’s hands were tied by law when it came to releasing specific information about personnel and disciplinary actions, especially for police who have special confidentiality privileges under state law.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office concluded its criminal investigation of the incident in January and found the officers acted lawfully.
Faced with intense public criticism, the city hired an outside investigator to review the Mann shooting and department policies and opened an internal civilian investigation through its Office of Public Safety Accountability. The department also conducted an internal affairs investigation to determine if the officers acted within the department’s rules.
Francine Tournour, head of the public safety accountability office, said the department’s internal affairs investigation is complete and her office is now in the final phases of developing its findings, which will be released in late June or early July.
James Sanchez, the city attorney, said the city would defend the previous settlement as the final outcome of the case. He said the city had “worked in good faith with the family and their attorney … and resolved the matter with those who had legal standing.”
Mann’s sister, Deborah Mann, said the siblings did not receive money from the first settlement because they ultimately were not part of that suit. She said the siblings were told by the lawyer handling the case that brothers and sisters typically aren’t considered close enough relations to have legal standing in such cases.
Robert Mann said he, along with two other brothers and two sisters, recently spoke to another lawyer, Mark Merin, about a way to revive the case for different civil rights violations that may allow siblings the necessary standing. Merin is well-known in Sacramento for his work on homeless issues.
Deborah Mann said she is filing the second lawsuit because she feels Joseph Mann has been unfairly depicted as a homeless drug addict whose life had little value, and she thinks that if his death can lead to further police reforms, it will bring a measure of comfort.
“He meant everything to me,” said Deborah Mann. “I was the one who took care of (him) when my mom would go to work at night. I don’t want him to die for nothing.”
Robert Mann said he wanted changes in how police deal with non-compliant people who may be using drugs or have mental illness, including proof that reforms meant to increase the use of non-lethal measures have been implemented and are having results.
He said Joseph Mann worked 22 years at a local Raley’s grocery store and also held a job with the state department of corrections, but their mother’s death in 2011 and his subsequent drug use brought on mental health problems. Robert Mann said Joseph Mann was treated for mental illness at a Sacramento County facility and at a local hospital and attended a drug recovery program.
“There is not one family across the country that doesn’t deal either with some kind of drug abuse or some kind of mental health issues,” said Robert Mann. “We are not looking for sympathy. … We don’t want our brother’s name to go unnoticed or just swept under the carpet as just another shooting here in Sacramento.”
Joseph Mann was shot and killed July 11 by Tennis and Lozoya after 911 callers reported a man acting erratically and armed with a knife and gun. Mann was later found to have a pocketknife with a 3.5-inch blade, but no gun was ever found. He also had methamphetamine in his system, according to a coroner’s report.
Officers followed Mann in their cruisers for several minutes, attempting to de-escalate the situation. When Tennis and Lozoya arrived, Tennis twice attempted to hit Mann with his cruiser before the duo pursued him on foot and fired 18 shots in an encounter that lasted less than a minute. Fourteen of those bullets hit Mann.
The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in federal court according to Merin, names former Sacramento police Chief Sam Somers Jr. in addition to the two officers and the city. Merin said the family planned to publicly disclose any information it found through legal proceedings.
The Sacramento City Council passed last year a package of changes aimed at making the Police Department more transparent. The new requirements included releasing police video in incidents such as the Mann case, increased training to deal with mentally ill and non-compliant people and the purchase of body cameras, which all officers are expected to use by fall.