Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 10:25 am | Partly Cloudy 69º


Local News

Family of Former Lompoc Police Officer Files Wrongful-Death Lawsuit

The family of a Lompoc police officer who committed suicide last year has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and department’s leaders.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court by attorney Todd Hunt of Twitchell and Rice LLP, listed Mayra Grijalva and their three children — Meliah, Miguel and Mauricio — as plaintiffs. 

Listed as defendants were the city of Lompoc, Chief Pat Walsh, Capt. Deanna Clement and other individuals not identified. 

The lawsuit stems from Officer Miguel Grijalva Jr.’s self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest while parked near Orcutt on March 7, 2017. 

The claim contends the police officer displayed a declining mental well-being starting in June 2016 and needed an intervention.

“In fact, defendants led plaintiffs to believe that they fully intended to do so, but then utterly failed,” the complaints said.

“Plaintiffs allege defendants have an unlawful policy, custom and practice of improperly and unlawfully denying city of Lompoc police officer employees important and necessary medical and psychological benefits,” the claim says. “In the case of Officer Grijavala, defendants’ failure to provide the benefits led to his untimely death.”

The lawsuit claims the officer showed up at his wife’s job site in June 2016 and became verbally abusive before taking the woman’s cell phone and slamming it against concrete in anger.

Two months later, he became the subject of a police internal-affairs investigation for conducting an illegal traffic stop. 

Mayra Grijalva alerted Lompoc police that she believed her husband, a former Marine, had post-traumatic stress disorder. 

In November 2016, the officer delivered a hand-written suicide note along with his Marine Corp dress blues uniform to his wife’s home.

Shorly before his death, the police officer was in the process of trying to get hired by the Santa Maria Police Department when Capt. Deanna Clement wrote a letter disclosing concerns about Grijalva’s mental state and suggested the psychological evaluator review the candidates’s condition. .

The lawsuit contends police supervisors failed to contact the wife or the officer’s parents regarding his well-being or mental state, including that Grijalva was drinking excessively and had sat in a supervisors office “on multiple occasions and cried incessantly for hours.”

Informed the officer’s mental state had deteriorated, police supervisors attempted to speak to Grijalva and hospitalize him, but the lawsuit said the effort violated the man’s rights. 

“As a result of defendant’s interference with Officer Grijalva’s civil rights, Officer Grijalva suffered humiliation, severe emotional distress, and mental and physical pain and anguish, which ultimately led to his death …,” the lawsuit said. 

A civil complaint only includes the plaintiff’s allegations and the defendants had not filed a response as of Monday. 

Prior to the lawsuit, the family filed a claim against the city, which the City Council rejected in October.

“I am unable to discuss specifics of pending litigation, but have complete faith in our legal system,” Walsh said in a written statement about the lawsuit.

“I support Officer Grijalva’s family in seeking the recompense they deem necessary, and believe the truth will prevail in the court process,” he added.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $25,000, including for loss of financial support from the officer, loss of gifts from the officer, funeral and burial costs, loss of the man’s love, companionship and care, attorneys costs and other relief. 

The plaintiff also are asking for jury trial.

The case has been assigned to Judge Jed Beebe, with a case management conference set for Aug. 22.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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