The family of a man shot and killed by San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers last fall filed a claim Tuesday for damages against the City of San Diego and the police department, calling this a case of wrongful death.
Lamontez Jones, 39, of Virginia, died after being shot by two SDPD officers during a confrontation in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter on Oct. 20, 2015.
Two motorcycle officers on traffic patrol – Officer Scott Thompson, a 30-year veteran of the department and Officer Gregory Lindstrom, a 25-year veteran – saw Jones allegedly disrupting traffic at 6th Avenue and F Street. When they approached him, Jones allegedly ran into the middle of the street and pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his backpack and pointed it at the officers, the police department said.
The officers fired their service weapons at Jones, killing him. There was no radio call from Thompson or Lindstrom before the shots were fired.
Investigators later determined the item Jones grabbed from his backpack was not a real firearm, but a steel replica with the same markings of a real weapon.
Both officers who fired on Jones failed to activate their body-worn cameras in time to capture the shooting, and the case gained a lot of criticism.
SDPD police states an officer will activate the body-worn camera after a radio call or before an enforcement contact. However, neither Thompson nor Lindstrom activated a recording on their camera.
SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman defended the actions of the officers, saying the officers were facing a dangerous situation and had to protect themselves and the public first.
An attorney for Jones’ family argues his killing is a case of wrongful death.
To that end, members with a group called United Against Police Terror (UAPT) presented a claim for damages in this case to the SDPD and City Clerk’s office Tuesday on behalf of Jones’ mother and family’s attorney.
The damages listed in the family’s claim include emotional distress, medical expenses, attorney fees, loss of income and punitive damages against the City of San Diego, the police department and Thompson and Lindstrom.
Catherine Mendonca, a spokesperson for UAPT, said there needs to be closure for Jones’ family and justice and punishment for Jones’ wrongful death.
“We believe police should really be educated and trained to not use lethal force first, use methods of less lethal force,” Mendonca told NBC 7. “In this case, there’s more to the story and there really is no objective point of view to show the officers were in the right because their body cameras were not on.”
An attorney for the UAPT said the group must file the claim with the city before it can take the next step in filing a lawsuit on a state level.
NBC 7 reached out to the San Diego County City Attorney’s Office and a spokesperson said the claim was received. If the city denies the claim, the group can file a lawsuit.
NBC 7 also reached out to SDPD for comment on the claim, but we have not yet heard back from the police department.
As of October 2015, Zimmerman said the SDPD had distributed more than 950 body cameras to its force.
At that time, the Chief said there was a learning curve for officers when it came to activating the technology. She said the cameras are always on a 30-second buffer and officers must activate a button to record video. Storage limitations at the police department does not allow for continuous recording on officers’ body-worn cameras, Zimmerman said last fall.
According to investigators, Jones had arrived in San Diego the day before he was fatally shot. Police in Hampton, Virginia, had identified Jones as the suspect in a May 31, 2015, armed robbery of a pharmacy.
SDPD officials said Jones had a propensity for violence and served a prison sentence in June 2012 for a shooting. Court records from Norfolk, Virginia, showed Jones pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of his roommate. He served three years in prison for that crime.