The mother of the man San Luis Obispo police say shot and killed police Det. Luca Benedetti in May has filed a wrongful death administrative claim against the city and county, accusing the Police Department of misconduct and a coverup.
Caroline Wichman, Eddie Giron’s mother, filed the claim on Thursday.
It’s a precursor to a lawsuit, alleging eight acts of which the city and county are responsible.
Wichman, a San Jose resident, contends city police “mishandled the tactical entry of Mr. Giron’s house and subsequent shootout, which led to the unlawful killing of Mr. Giron by police.”
She also accuses the city of refusing to release reports and body camera footage, in addition to hiding key information related to the death of her son, who was 37.
“Police omitted the fact that Mr. Giron was killed with an officer’s gun, and police omitted the fact that Giron was shot 14 times in the torso, the legs, and in the back,” the claim states. “An independent autopsy conducted at the direction of Mr. Giron’s family demonstrates that the law enforcement narrative is intentionally false and misleading.”
The claim represents one side of the case.
SLO Officials Respond
In an emailed response to The Tribune, SLO officials denied some of the specific allegations and cited an ongoing investigation.
“Let’s remember that Mr. Giron’s life was not the only one lost that day,” said Whitney Szentesi, SLO’s public communications manager. “He ambushed and killed Det. Luca Benedetti, taking a beloved father and husband away from his family, and a committed public servant away from this community. Mr. Giron also shot and injured another officer that day.”
Szentesi said to “help our community get answers, we will continue to support a full, fair, independent, and transparent investigation of all circumstances surrounding this tragedy. Complete facts and information will be released to the public in a timely manner once the investigation is complete.”
SLO officials said in a news release and a press conference after the incident that Benedetti was shot and killed by Giron on May 10 as he and five other officers served a search warrant on Giron’s apartment related to what officials say were several commercial burglaries.
The city said Giron was lying in wait, ambushed officers, and opened fire, initiating the shootout that ended with the deaths of both him and Benedetti.
SLO Police Det. Steve Orozco also was injured in the shooting.
Giron died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the city said. But Giron’s family disputes that account, saying police fire killed him.
Giron’s friends and family members told The Tribune they tried in vain for nearly a year to get him mental health help — which he would refuse — by reporting his increasingly erratic behavior and asking the San Luis Obispo Police Department to check on his welfare.
Giron’s Family Claims ‘Eight Acts of Responsibility’
Giron’s family, represented by San Francisco attorney Randy Daar, alleges eight acts that apply to both agencies, adding the Sheriff’s Office has taken over the death investigation and is “obfuscating the truth behind Mr. Giron’s death and (Benedetti’s) death.”
The claim alleges the following:
» SLOPD mishandled of the tactical entry, and killed Giron unlawfully.
» SLOPD and other law enforcement shot Giron out of “revenge during a moment he was no longer a threat to public safety.”
» SLOPD and other law enforcement publicly denied Giron’s mental health history.
» SLOPD and other law enforcement conspired in “proliferating a false narrative to the public that Mr. Giron shot and killed himself.”
» SLOP and other law enforcement covered up police misconduct.
» SLOPD and other law enforcement covered up friendly fire that injured “one or more officers.”
» The city of SLO destroyed at least some officer-worn body camera footage “because it is incriminating to officers.”
» The city of SLO refused to release body camera footage to “hide the truth of how Mr. Giron was killed.”
The claim cited “significant lies” by SLOPD: “The reason body cameras have not been turned over is that 1) they would vindicate Mr. Giron 2) they would incriminate SLOPD officers, and 3) so that body camera footage can be tampered with or destroyed.”
Giron’s mother is seeking more than $25,000 from both the city and the county, to be calculated based on pain and suffering, emotional distress, restitution and punitive damages.
SLO Responds to Allegations
Szentesi said that, as for the alleged withholding of body cam footage and reports, an “independent investigation is being conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, and the internal investigation being conducted by the city are ongoing, and we have responded as required to a pending records request.”
“We will produce all non-exempt records subject to public records production at such time as investigations will not be compromised by such disclosure,” Szentesi said.
She disputed that the city ever denied “receiving contacts regarding Mr. Giron’s mental health status.”
“As was previously disclosed, our records show that Mr. Giron had a history of third-party concerns regarding his mental health status, but he never displayed violent behavior toward San Luis Obispo police officers, nor did he disclose that he was a violent threat to himself or others,” Szentesi said.
“He was not determined to meet the legal criteria that would have allowed for an involuntary mental health hold.”
The city added: “It is important to remember that law enforcement agencies are limited in what they can do to help someone experiencing mental distress who declines services under California law.” Szentesi added: “The city did not destroy any body cam footage.”
City officials also cited a host of steps friends and family can take to help someone who may be in danger of harming themselves or others.
Those include staying “present and connected,” seeking guidance from a therapist (perhaps calling 211 for general community resources), and, if someone is an immediate danger to oneself or others, calling 9-1-1 and requesting an officer who’s received Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).
SLO County officials didn’t respond to request for comment on the claims.
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