The family of a man fatally shot by a Santa Barbara police officer in September during a late-night encounter on a downtown street filed a $10 million claim against the city Thursday, claiming that his death was the result of excessive force.
Brian Phillip Tacadena died Sept. 1 of multiple gunshot wounds suffered during the encounter with the officer, whose name has not been released.
Tacadena had a history of mental illness, and had drawn a knife and was advancing on the officer, despite calls to stop, when he was shot, according to police.
Last month, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley issued a statement saying the officer was legally justified in the shooting.
Dudley said "the officer acted reasonably in the use of deadly force; therefore the shooting of Brian Tacadena is a justifiable homicide."
Members of Tacadena's family, LA-based attorney James Segall-Gutierrez and local organizations including PODER Santa Barbara met on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall on Thursday to announce the filing of the claim
The speakers asked for an end to what they call "an epidemic of police brutality" in Santa Barbara and around the state.
Segall-Gutierrez, the attorney representing the family, said the claim was filed Thursday by Tacadena's daughter, Brittany.
He said officers told the family there had been one shot fired, but had discovered multiple gunshot wounds in Tacadena's body when they examined him at the morgue.
"[The family] wanted answers to the questions they have," he said. "Now their hope is that there is going to be justice."
The defendants listed in the claim are the city, the Police Department and Police Chief Cam Sanchez, as well as the involved police officer.
Santa Barbara City Administrator Jim Armstrong said Thursday that the city did not have any comment on the claim.
Thursday's claim lists negligence, emotional distress, battery, assault and other charges, and maintains that police used excessive force when dealing with Tacadena.
A complaint is also being filed in federal court on charges of wrongful death and maintains that Tacadena's civil rights were violated.
"I do not believe that the Santa Barbara Police Department can objectively investigate their own shooting," Segall-Gutierrez said, adding that there needs to be an independent agency administering oversight. "We named Cam Sanchez because we feel he's perpetuated this environment. ... He put his officers on notice to act in this manner."
By moving forward with a gang-injunction that criminalizes Mexican Americans, he said, Sanchez "has created a hostile environment where law enforcement has become trigger happy. Everybody is a potential gang member."
The night of his death, Tacadena had taken a bus from San Jose and was walking to a family member's downtown home from the transit center, his attorney said.
"His family hadn't seen him in years," he said. "He was excited and was texting his family. This whole notion that he had suicidal ideations is not true."
The claim is asking for $10 million in damages and the defendants have 45 days to answer, he said.
In the report issued last month, Dudley's findings painted a picture of a man with a lengthy history of mental-health problems, drug and weapons violations, and violent encounters, who spent time behind bars and had ties to a white-supremacist gang.
The night of his death, witnesses reported that Tacadena had been seen in the area of Castillo and Anapamu streets and exhibiting strange behavior, acting aggressively, "as if under the influence of a controlled substance." One witness called 9-1-1 but responding officers were unable to find him.
Several hours later, an officer, whose name has not been released, located Tacadena, who was holding a knife with a 9-inch blade, in the 1300 block of De la Vina.
The officer reported that he had the man at gunpoint, and requested emergency back-up "code 3" — with lights and sirens — from other officers.
Initially, Tacadena was about 66 feet from the officer, who ordered him to stop and drop the knife, but Tacadena reportedly advanced on the officer.
The officer again ordered Tacadena to drop the weapon, and warned him he would be shot if he didn't.
"Tacadena responded by stating something to the effect of, 'I know you will,'" the report states.
A minute into the encounter, with Tacadena 12 to 15 feet away from him, the officer fired five rounds from his department-issued, .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, striking Tacadena in the chest. He was pronounced dead three minutes later.
Based on an autopsy conducted by the Coroner's Office, "the cause of death was determined to be homicide with a significant condition noted of 'acute methamphetamine abuse.'"
Dudley's office also reviewed video surveillance from the scene, but said the camera in the officers patrol car camera was broken, so footage of the shooting could not be recovered.