Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 3:22 pm | Fair and Breezy 70º


Local News

Family of Man Fatally Shot by Santa Barbara Officer Files $10 Million Claim

Relatives of Brian Phillip Tacadena, who had a history of mental illness, claim the police officer used excessive force during the Sept. 1 encounter

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

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.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >