Actor Ron Ely has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and four of its deputies, stemming from an incident last October in which his wife and son both died.
The amended complaint, filed Sept. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, includes a narrative of the events that transpired at Ely’s Hope Ranch home that is starkly at odds with the account the Sheriff’s Office initially provided last year.
Deputies responded to Ely’s spacious residence at 4141 Mariposa Drive at about 8:15 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2019. They found Ely’s wife, Valerie Lundeen Ely, lying on the floor, having suffered multiple stab wounds.
The Sheriff’s Office previously has said deputies quickly determined that she was dead, and identified the couple’s son, Cameron Ely, 30, as the suspect in the attack.
They began searching for him outside the home and in the neighborhood, and he was located roughly 90 minutes after the initial response.
According to an account provided by Raquel Zick, sheriff’s public information officer, “The suspect told deputies that he had a gun, advanced toward the deputies, and motioned with his hands as if he were drawing a weapon. In response, four deputies fired a total of 24 rounds from their service weapons, fatally wounding the suspect.”
The sheriff’s personnel who fired their weapons, and are co-defendants in the lawsuit, were identified as Sgt. Desiree Thome, Special Duty Deputy Jeremy Rogers, Deputy Phillip Farley, and Deputy John Gruttadaurio.
However, Ely’s lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles-area attorney DeWitt M. Lacy, contends the deputies had no reason “to use any force, especially deadly force” against Cameron Ely, stating that he was seen walking down the driveway from the backyard, obviously injured, with his hands up.
The lawsuit further alleges that dashboard camera video from the deputies’ patrol car backs up this account.
“Defendant deputies are heard instructing decedent Cameron to keep his hands up,” according to the lawsuit. “Defendant deputies did not ask any questions of decedent Cameron, nor did they announce that they were members of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department…
“Suddenly, and without any warning or legal justification, multiple defendant deputies opened fire on decedent Cameron, striking him a total of 22 times with bullets from several department issued weapons. Decedent Cameron immediately fell to the ground motionless.
“The shooting occurred less than 20 seconds after defendant deputies saw decedent Cameron walk around the corner with his hands up, the universal act of surrender,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit further claims that Cameron “did not make any aggressive movements or furtive gestures, nor did he utter any threats that would suggest he was a danger to the deputies or any other individuals in the area.”
It was Cameron Ely who made the original 9-1-1 call about the incident, at about 8p.m., according to the lawsuit, and he told dispatchers his mother was attacking his father.
Upon call back, it was Ron Ely who answered, “but he was unable to communicate with dispatchers at that time due to medical difficulties.”
The lawsuit claims the dispatcher failed to immediately send emergency medical personnel to the scene, despite indications Valerie Ely was still alive although grievously wounded.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims deputies arriving on scene failed to ascertain whether Valerie Ely was still alive, and “actively obstructed fire department medical personnel from entering the home to provide treatment” to her.
Similarly, the lawsuit alleges deputies failed to provide timely medical attention to Cameron Ely after he was shot, and noted that he already had suffered stab wounds and an injured leg.
“Decedent Cameron was left to bleed out in the driveway for over 13 minutes before medics were permitted to assess him,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the Sheriff’s Office and its deputies violated the Elys’ 4th and 14th Amendment constitutional rights.
It also states claims for wrongful death, negligence, assault/battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of state and federal civil codes, and seeks unspecified damages, including attorney’s fees.
It was filed on Ron Ely’s behalf by his daughter, Kirsten Ely, who is acting as his guardian, and demands a jury trial.
Zick said Wednesday that the Sheriff’s Office had no comment on the lawsuit.
“As a policy, we cannot comment on pending litigation,” she said.
Zick added that the sheriff’s investigation of the deputy shooting ended more than a month ago, and was forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley, whose office reviews all officer-involved shootings, told Noozhawk she hopes to complete her report on the incident by mid-October.
Ron Ely is best known for his starring role in the 1960s Tarzan television series. He appeared in films and other TV programs, and also is a mystery novelist.
Valerie Ely was a former beauty queen, and the couple had been married for about 35 years. They had two other children, daughters Kirsten and Kaitland.
Cameron Ely was a popular and star athlete at San Marcos High School, where he was voted Mr. Royal in 2006.
He went on to play quarterback on the football team at Harvard University, graduating with a psychology degree in 2012. More recently, he reportedly had been working as a security guard.