The family of a man who was fatally shot by Culver City Police Department officers last year filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday alleging officers failed to provide timely medical care that may have prevented the death.
Police received a call around 12:30 a.m. Dec. 18, reporting that Guillermo Medina, who suffered from schizophrenia, was having a mental health breakdown and was acting erratically, the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, states.
Sgt. Eddie Baskaron of the Culver City Police Department said at the time that officers were dispatched to the 3800 block of College Avenue regarding an incident “wherein the husband/suspect was threatening the wife/victim with a handgun.”
Medina, 39, managed to drive away from the scene until his vehicle crashed into a center median in the area of Culver Boulevard and Cardiff Avenue, Baskaron said.
Medina’s relatives told police “he was not going to hurt anybody” and begged officers to use restraint, according to the suit, which names the Culver City Police Department, the officers involved and their superiors as defendants.
When his vehicle could go no further, Medina got out of the car and ran, Medina family attorney V. James DeSimone said.
According to the attorney, security camera footage shows Medina running from officers into an empty parking lot. After being shot in the back by police, he falls forward on his face, then rolls onto his back, with his arms outstretched, said DeSimone, who represents Medina’s wife Adriana and their three children in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs allege that while it was clear the injured Medina could not possibly cause harm — noting that no weapon was found at the scene — officers stood by for nearly a full minute without rendering medical aid, wasting critical time that could have made the difference between life and death. Then the officers roughly handcuffed the mortally wounded and obviously incapacitated Medina without providing medical care, the suit contends.
A Culver City police spokesman said the department does not comment on pending litigation. But, he added, the department is planning to release body cam and surveillance footage from the incident — including the pursuit — at some point in the near future.
The lawsuit claims the officers’ use of force against Medina was excessive, unreasonable and unconstitutional, and further alleges police engaged in assault and battery and are liable for wrongful death claims.
“They knew or should have known that Mr. Medina did not present a threat to their safety or the safety of others,” DeSimone said in a statement. “Culver City and its police department appears to maintain unconstitutional practices that not only tolerate, but encourage, the use of excessive force.”
The attorney said video of the shooting — showing an officer in camouflage fatigues with a bulletproof vest and what appears to be a semi-automatic rifle — clearly illustrates the scale of the department’s overreaction.
Medina’s family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the city and police department. DeSimone said the California Department of Justice has a copy of the video and the Medina family request the state Department of Justice criminally prosecute the officers involved in the shooting.
The shooting is currently under investigation by the state DOJ, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s website.