Daniel Shaham was returning from a driving vacation in Northern California when he was shot to death last year in a rural area of Siskiyou County.
The 31-year-old Sacramento man, a former chemistry major at Sacramento State University, died June 4, 2016, of “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to his death certificate, after what officials say was an encounter with a California Highway Patrol officer while Shaham was parked along the roadside north of Weed.
What led to the shooting that Saturday morning remains a mystery more than a year later.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office says its investigation still is not complete, and a lawyer for Shaham’s mother says he has been unable to get any records. There also is a dispute over whether Shaham was armed, as the sheriff’s office was quoted as saying immediately after the shooting, or whether the weapon was simply a small pocketknife found later in his car. In a video interview shortly after the shooting, Siskiyou County Sheriff John Lopey refers to Shaham as a “pedestrian.”
“Both Siskiyou County and the CHP have withheld all information about the shooting,” said attorney Michael Haddad, who has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento on behalf of Shaham’s mother, Sacramento physician Denise Smart.
The lawsuit says Shaham was mentally ill, and had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, but was “moderate- to high-functioning.” Such illness affects about 0.3 percent of the population, and can include symptoms of hallucinations, depression and delusions, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Shaham attended high school in Larkspur, and since 2007 had lived with his mother in Sacramento. He “loved to draw, read, cook, listen to music and go for drives in the country” the lawsuit says. “He tended to be shy, submissive, and compliant with appropriate guidance or direction.”
“He was mentally ill, but functional,” Haddad said. “He liked to go out for a couple of days on his own and go driving in nature and stay in motels and get away from things to de-stress a little bit. He was coming home from one of those very short vacations.”
The day of his death, Shaham was stopped along the Louie Road overcrossing near I-5 when a passerby decided he was behaving oddly and called 911, the lawsuit says.
CHP Officer Paul Shadwell responded to the call. According to the lawsuit, he pulled up behind Shaham’s car “and got out of his car to speak with him.”
Shaham “would have been shy, submissive and uncomfortable with a law enforcement officer using command presence and communications,” the lawsuit says, adding that Shaham had not committed any crime and was not armed.
After speaking with Shaham, the CHP officer returned to his car and reviewed some dispatch logs, the lawsuit says, then “for currently unknown reasons decided to re-initiate contact” with Shaham.
“During this second encounter, defendant Shadwell purposely shot and killed” Shaham, according to the lawsuit, which says Shaham was shot at least twice, once in the leg and once in the chest.
The day of the shooting, the sheriffs office issued a news release saying it was investigating an officer-involved shooting between a CHP officer “and a suspect.”
Three days later, according to local media reports, the sheriff’s office identified Shaham and reported that he had been found with a weapon.
“The investigation has revealed additional information, including the recovery of a weapon the suspect had in his possession at the time of the incident,” the Siskiyou Daily News reported.
Haddad says the weapon was “a very, very small pocketknife” found in the car. The lawsuit says that at the time Shadwell shot Shaham, “Daniel had no weapon in his hands and posed no significant or immediate threat.
“We know that Daniel was not a violent person, and he was not armed,” Haddad said.
The sheriff’s office says it will not comment on an open investigation. Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus says his office is still waiting for the sheriff’s report before deciding how to proceed.
“It’s been a year, that’s a long time,” Andrus said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “But at the same time these are investigations that you just want to leave no stone unturned. I’ve spoken with their detective, and that’s exactly what she’s doing.
“We will try to turn it around and give a decision as to whether or not charges are warranted against the officer very quickly.”
The CHP declined to comment Tuesday on pending litigation, but attorneys for the state are moving to dismiss portions of the lawsuit and are scheduled to argue the matter in court in September.
Haddad said the lack of disclosure in the case will not hinder the lawsuit, which seeks damages for Shaham’s death, violation of his constitutional rights, pain and suffering and other causes.
“We’re going forward with the case,” Haddad said, “and we’ll get the documents from the federal court.”
Shadwell remained employed by the CHP in 2016, according to state records compiled in The Bee’s state pay database. He received total pay of $127,000.