A Sacramento sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a schizophrenic man in January 2012 after a 911 call by the man’s parents testified for hours Tuesday in federal court. He framed the fatal shooting as the only option in his effort to defend himself against a violent, mentally troubled assailant.
“I thought I was going to die,” Deputy David McEntire said at the end of his testimony Tuesday in a federal civil trial. “I thought I was going to lose consciousness.”
Ted Rose and his family are suing Sacramento County and McEntire in U.S. District Court in Sacramento over what they contend was the unprovoked and unnecessary shooting of Ted’s son, Johnathan Rose, 24, who was unarmed and in his parents’ house.
McEntire shot Rose three times at close range with his .40-caliber duty weapon after striking him in the head with his flashlight in the minutes after he entered the Roses’ home.
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The trial began Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge Troy Nunley.
“The issue in this case is whether the force used was necessary or excessive,” Rose attorney Dale Galipo told jurors in his opening statement. “No, it wasn’t necessary. Yes, it was excessive.”
But attorney Van Longyear, representing Sacramento County, detailed an “extremely traumatic” January day for the Roses even before Ted Rose’s fateful call brought McEntire to the scene. He said Johnathan Rose became angrier and angrier as the day progressed. Longyear said the elder Rose met McEntire at the doorway and spoke in hushed tones out of fear he would awaken his agitated son.
“It was a tragedy for the family and a tragedy for Deputy McEntire,” Longyear said. “He was called to face down a 261-pound paranoid schizophrenic. ... There are two significantly different versions of what happened that night. Did (McEntire) fire a weapon to take a life or save a life?”
Ted Rose had called 911 for help dealing with his son. The young man was acting agitated and refused to eat or take his medication that night, his father said. It had been, Galipo said in his opening statement Tuesday morning, a “tough day” for the younger Rose and his family after a stressful visit to a new doctor.
But after he called 911, nobody showed up for more than 30 minutes, and Johnathan went to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
According to the family’s lawsuit, Johnathan was still sleeping when McEntire showed up at the door, asked “Where is he?” and moved toward the young man on the mattress. Rose awoke, stood, faced a wall with his hands behind his back and waited to be handcuffed, but McEntire ordered him to the floor, the lawsuit states.
Rose suffered from a compulsive disorder that made him phobic about germs and dirt, according to the suit. He started to get on the floor, but then stood back up and said, “I can’t, just arrest me,” the suit states.
In response, McEntire slammed Rose into the wall, breaking a hole in it, then hit Rose across the top of his head with his department-issued flashlight, the suit states. The two grappled and fell onto the mattress and Johnathan Rose tried punching the deputy “in a desperate attempt to stop the attack.”
On the stand, McEntire countered that version of events. He testified that the younger Rose greeted him from the mattress with an expletive, and later threw a punch that missed the deputy. McEntire testified that he ordered Johnathan to the ground because Rose had “closed the distance” on the deputy.
McEntire testified that Johnathan Rose landed eight to 10 punches. “Full-force blows,” McEntire called them. “I took one to the nose. It filled with blood. Once in the mouth – I could taste blood.” He took other blows to the temple, he said.
Ted Rose hasn’t taken the stand yet to describe the events of that night, but in the lawsuit he says he tried to intervene, saying he grabbed his son, pulled him down, and yelled, “Stop, he’s going to hurt you.”
The lawsuit says that McEntire then “fired three shots in rapid succession into Johnathan while Ted Rose held his son.”
McEntire gave his version of the struggle Tuesday from the stand: Ted Rose “had his arms wrapped around Johnny’s right arm trying to stop the punches. Johnny was throwing his father around with the punches like a rag doll.”
McEntire said he secured the knife he carried in its scabbard, reached for his holster and pulled out his weapon. “I was intending to stop the attack ... by using lethal force,” he said under questioning by Galipo. He confirmed that the shots were fired at such close range that blood was left on his gun.
In a 2015 interview, Ted Rose told The Bee he asked McEntire repeatedly why he had shot him, and the deputy replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”
On the stand, McEntire denied uttering those words.
Over the course of developing evidence for the lawsuit, the family’s lawyer said he discovered that McEntire has faced at least a half-dozen internal affairs complaints during his 12 years as a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy.
“He’s a habitual, serial excessive-force abuser,” Rose said in his Bee interview, noting that his lawsuit is one of three McEntire has faced for allegedly using excessive force.
Internal sheriff’s documents filed in the lawsuit said McEntire told internal affairs investigators that he “shot Rose to stop a threat to his life.” The department’s internal investigation closed with the determination that McEntire acted with “reasonable mitigation.”
Testimony continues Wednesday.