LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The mother of a man fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy in Palmdale last year after he allegedly crashed a vehicle into two patrol cars is suing Los Angeles County, the deputy who fired the shots and others, according to court papers obtained Monday.
Regina Castro alleges in the suit, filed Friday in federal court, that Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies had no reason to stop her son, Samuel Nunez, who "was merely driving in a vehicle when he was followed by the deputies who did not see him commit a crime and did not have reasonable suspicion to believe" the 26-year-old Lancaster man was involved in anything illegal.
The shooting around 6 p.m. on March 13, 2022, in the 6900 block of Jack Rabbit Way, near 70th Street East, took place after deputies were following up on a domestic violence call from earlier in the evening and attempted to make contact with a man seated inside a vehicle, Deputy Tracy Koerner of the Sheriff's Information Bureau said at the time.
"The suspect attempted to flee the location and rammed two patrol vehicles several times," Koerner said. "After ramming one of the deputy's vehicles, a deputy-involved shooting occurred. ... It was later determined the suspect was not involved in the early domestic violence call."
Civil rights attorney Dale Galipo, who is representing Castro, contends the deputies did not have a lawful reason to stop Nunez. The attorney alleges that Nunez was in the process of conducting a U-turn when LASD Deputy Chad Melton "intentionally and unreasonably" drove his patrol car into the opposite lane causing a head-on collision with Nunez.
Galipo alleges that Melton then used his vehicle to box in Nunez before reversing so that he was not directly behind Nunez's vehicle.
"The deputies used unreasonable vehicle apprehension techniques that escalated the situation," Galipo alleges in a statement.
"Deputy Chad Melton then exited his patrol vehicle and unreasonably opened fire on Mr. Nunez as Mr. Nunez's vehicle was slowly rolling backwards -- away from the deputies. No person or deputy was in the path of the vehicle at the time. Nevertheless, Deputy Melton fired approximately six shots at Mr. Nunez, striking him multiple times to the head, neck, and upper left shoulder causing his death."
A message requesting comment sent to the LASD was not immediately answered.
A claim for damages was rejected in November by the county, "despite knowing that Mr. Nunez was not involved in the domestic violence incident," according to the attorney.
"My son was a good man, a loyal friend, and loved by his family," Castro said in a press release.
"It breaks my heart that Samuel was wrongfully killed by deputies who were supposed to protect. The day my son was taken, a piece of me was lost forever. I want people to know that my son had a big heart and a contagious smile. His life mattered and now I am pleading for justice. My son didn't deserve for his life to be taken like this."
The lawsuit for wrongful death and unspecified damages contends that the use of deadly force violated Nunez's constitutional rights and that the officers' "poor tactics and training" contributed to the alleged "unjustifiable" use of deadly force.
"It is our hope that we will be able to help Ms. Castro find closure and begin to heal, and to achieve justice for Samuel," Galipo said.