Trevor Heitmann’s father stood outside of his home on the morning of Aug. 23, 2018. He calmly spoke to police officers, telling them that he and his wife had asked a friend and psychiatrist to call police in order to get help for their son, who was in the midst of a mental break.
Despite their pleas to officers to have their 18-year-old son removed from their home and taken to the hospital for medical help, SDPD officers Matthew Rosbrook, Eric Mallory and Erik Pollack refused to intervene.
Hours later, Heitmann sped upwards of 100 mph in the wrong direction on Interstate 805, directly into a car that was driven by Aileen Pizarro, with her 12-year-old daughter in the front seat. All three died in the collision.
Now, the Pizarro family as well as the Heitmann family are suing the San Diego Police Department, claiming that police officers refused to even interview Heitmann despite a psychiatrist’s plea on behalf of his parents.
Earlier this month, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled against a motion filed by San Diego City Attorney’s Office to prevent the release of the officer-worn camera footage.
THE 911 CALL FROM THE PSYCHIATRIST AND HEITMANN FAMILY FRIEND
Just after 8 a.m. that same morning, psychiatrist Mary Rusher called 911 to inform police that Heitmann was in the middle of a manic break and was in need of help.
“I believe there’s an individual who’s a danger to himself and a danger to others,” Rusher said to a police dispatcher. “He threatened his mother in the early hours. She’s scared for her life. He’s suffering from a mental illness, and he should be detained on a 5150 for further observation.... He’s paranoid. He’s delusional and I think he’s manic.”
Twenty minutes or so later, according to police dispatch logs obtained by NBC 7, officers arrived at the Heitmann home.
Kurt Heitmann, Trevor's father, can be seen in the officer-worn camera footage waiting outside to speak to the officers.
“He’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff,” Kurt told them.
Heitmann said his son was having of a manic episode, during which he threatened to hurt his mother and admitted to driving his McLaren sports car at speeds over 120 mph on the wrong side of the road in the hours before the call. Heitmann's father pleaded to officers to talk to his son and transport him to a hospital for help. To make sure they were following the correct guidelines, Heitmann's parents had a friend and psychiatrist call police to let them know he was a danger to himself and others.
As police officers told Heitmann’s parents that nothing could be done, Heitmann’s mother, Bita, expressed fear that someone could get hurt if officers didn’t help.
Approximately 20 minutes after police arrived at the Heitmann home, Rusher, a friend of the family, approached officers and told them that the 18-year-old was displaying clear signs of a psychotic episode and was a danger to himself and others.
Despite this, officers refused, stating that they could potentially “go to prison” for wrongly removing Heitmann against his will.
“We can talk to him, but we can’t make something out of nothing," one of the officers told Kurt as his son slept inside the house. "I cannot take them in for that. I cannot violate someone’s civil rights."
Approximately seven hours later, police were again called to the Heitmann home. Kurt told another officer that his son, still acting erratically, had sped off, hitting two parked cars in the family’s driveway. As the officer interviewed Kurt, police received a call from citizens that a man in a McLaren was driving down the wrong side of the road at high rates of speed at Ashley Falls Elementary School in Carmel Valley.
This video was taken by those at the school.
As officers interviewed the witnesses at the school, calls were heard coming in about a fiery crash on Interstate 805. It was later learned that the cause of the crash was Trevor. He, Pizarro and her daughter Aryana died in the deadly collision.
The videos, said Pizarro family attorney, Cynthia Chihak, are hard to watch for the family but help them understand a bit more.
“The family still wants to know why their loved ones died," Chihak said. "Could it have been prevented? These videos, I believe, show that this awful tragedy could have been avoided."
“Dr. Rusher told police officers that he is a danger to the public," Chihak said. "They said he admitted to driving the wrong way at high speeds. Officer Pollack’s response was that he didn’t want to risk going to prison for wrongly taking a person in on a 5150 hold."
“It was extremely callous and wrong," Chihak added. "Their job is to protect the public. I can't imagine how someone would go to prison for interviewing a young man that his family and the next door neighbor, who's a psychiatrist, is saying is a danger to everyone out on the road.”
Chihak said the videos have helped her clients get closer to some type of closure in the deaths of their loved ones.
“Now they can look at what really happened," Chihak said. "I think their anger toward Mr. and Mrs. Heitmann for not stopping their son has been somewhat eased. The videos help put a picture together for them, allowing them to get on with their lives."
NBC 7 Investigates contacted the city of San Diego and SDPD for comment. A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office told NBC 7 that the office does not comment on pending litigation.