Crime - Sacto 911

Judge says Sacramento County sheriffs acted legally in stop of car carrying critically injured man

This story has been corrected. It originally said Citrus Heights police, not the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, was named in the lawsuit.

A Sacramento federal judge threw out a wrongful death lawsuit Monday, ruling that Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies acted within the law when they made a traffic stop on a car rushing to a hospital with a man seriously wounded by a gunshot.

U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley found that the officers had lawful reason to stop the vehicle, which was racing down Greenback Lane at speeds up to 80 mph and running through red lights.

The officers summoned an ambulance, which took Jacob Moses Green the rest of the way to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 18.

Green’s parents, Donna Green and Nelson Decuire, allege in the suit that their son could have been saved had the car not been stopped.

“From the time the vehicle was pulled over, roughly four minutes passed until medical personnel were cleared to enter (the scene),” Nunley wrote in a 29-page order on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment. “Roughly 10 minutes passed from the time the vehicle was pulled over until the ambulance left the scene with Green for the hospital.

“Further, it is not disputed that upon initial contact with Green, the medical personnel observed Green with no pulse, he was not breathing, and his pupils were fixed and dilated.”

Green was celebrating his 18th birthday in the early morning hours of April 25, 2012, when he showed up at the front door of a house in the 5200 block of Karm Way in Foothill Farms, where his girlfriend was staying overnight. He wound up in a confrontation with a male resident of the house, Eric Henderson, who shot him in the abdomen.

Henderson called the police. Meanwhile, Green’s friends put in him a Cadillac and sped off for the hospital, only to be intercepted by officers.

A big issue in the case was whether the officers knew that a severely wounded gunshot victim was in the car before they stopped it. There were several somewhat confusing transmissions from dispatch.

Dispatch reported: “Looks like the R/P (reporting person) Eric Henderson shot the intruder.” Then dispatch reported that it “looks like subject’s in a white Cadillac, loaded up the victim into a vehicle.” Green was in the car and Henderson was still at the scene of the shooting.

An officer at the scene radioed: “As I pulled up, they were leaving with the sus – or the victim inside.” Then another officer radioed with questions: “Confirming, the suspect vehicle supposed to be a white Cadillac? Was 12 Adam with them?” Dispatch responded: “12 Adam saw them as he was arriving. And units, now they’re saying that the victim is the one in the white Cadillac.”

Benjamin Nisenbaum, an attorney for Green’s parents, said in court papers: “It is undisputed that at the time of the stop, the defendant deputies were informed that the victim of the shooting was in the white Cadillac.”

Contrary to that claim, defense attorney Peter Zilaff said in court papers: “When the Cadillac stopped, the deputies did not know the identity of any of the car’s occupants. The deputies did not know whether any of the occupants was involved in either the invasion of the home or the shooting. The deputies did not know the criminal histories of the occupants and did not know whether any occupant was armed, would seek to avoid detention, and/or was otherwise hostile to law enforcement. Because they had received reports that the possible victim of the shooting was in the car, deputies re-routed medical personnel to the scene of the stop.”

Nunley had the last word in Monday’s order. On the issue of whether Green’s constitutional rights were violated, the judge said he carefully considered the evidence, including on-board camera footage of the stop and the radio communications, and concluded that they were not.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189