Minutes before he was shot and killed by two Modesto police officers, Sammy Galvan was asleep in his bed or lying on his bed with his arms crossed on his chest, a knife in each hand.
In the final moments of his life, Galvan may have reacted to beams of light shining into his darkened cottage by jumping out of bed, assuming a fighting stance while advancing slowly toward officers Lyndon Yates and Miri Morse, and yelling, "Shoot me, m------------."
Or Galvan, 22, may have been shot eight times before he had a chance to comply with the officers' commands, posing no threat as he leaped out of bed and grabbed a knife to protect himself from intruders.
One version of the story, proffered by a city attorney, has Galvan holding a blade by its tip and raising his hand to throw the knife at Yates or Morse. The other, from an attorney seeking $3 million for Galvan's parents, says Galvan's wounds show that he could not have been taking aim.
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Twelve jurors will decide after they hear from all involved when the wrongful death case comes to trial today in U.S. District Court in Fresno. An attorney representing the Galvans said a trial is the only way to get justice for a young man who died at police hands but committed no crime.
"These cases are hard," said Oakland-based attorney Walter Riley, who declined to discuss the case in detail. "But they have to be tried sometimes."
Senior Deputy City Attorney James Wilson, who represents the officers, could not be reached for comment.
Both sides agree Galvan was shot and killed about 1 a.m. Aug. 22, 2004, after his mother called 911 asking for help with a family dispute. Details of the case are found in volumes of legal papers filed as the dispute made its way toward trial.
Authorities ruled Galvan's death a justifiable homicide, but Galvan's parents allege negligence and misconduct were at the root of the shooting. They also contend that the police used excessive force when restraining Ramon Galvan, who wanted to know what was happening to his son.
It all started after Sammy Galvan and his girlfriend, Yesenia Perez, returned from a party and had a loud argument. Galvan lived in a cottage behind his parents' home on West Roseburg Avenue; his mother called 911, because she wanted the police to remove Perez from the premises.
All was quiet when the officers arrived at the Galvan home at 12:55 a.m. Susan Galvan was gone, but her husband wanted Perez off his property. He unlocked a back gate and restrained his dogs so the officers could check on the couple.
It is not clear whether the responding officers knew much or anything about the Galvans or the home they were entering that night, but court records show that the authorities had encountered Sammy Galvan before.
In 2001, police were called to the home because a drunken and possibly suicidal Sammy Galvan fought with his father. That encounter resulted in an assault conviction and 30-day sentence for Sammy Galvan.
Galvan got 60 days in jail in 2002, after he tried to enter the home of an ex-girlfriend late at night and struggled with officers who were called to the scene.
And he and Perez took swings at security guards at downtown Modesto's Brenden Theatres in 2003, earning misdemeanor assault convictions and probation.
On the night Galvan died, officers who responded to the family's call said they could do little more than talk to the couple.
As they approached the cottage, Yates and Morse saw a broken window and property strewn on the ground, according to legal papers filed by the city, and one of them yelled "Modesto police" as they shined their flashlights through an open door.
Ramon Galvan, who was standing near his home because he had been asked to keep his distance, heard gunshots and saw the officers drag Perez from the cottage. Minutes later, he was tackled by officers who came to aid Yates and Morse and wanted to secure the scene.
The city says Ramon Galvan obstructed the officers; His lawyer says the father insisted that he did nothing wrong and tried to find out what was going on inside the cottage.
When Susan Galvan returned home, her husband was in the back of a police car and her son was on a stretcher. She screamed, "I love you Sammy! Hang on! Can you hear me," her attorney said in legal papers.
No one would tell her what was going on, so Galvan followed an ambulance to Doctors Medical Center, where her son and husband were taken.
Hours later, detectives took the handcuffs off Ramon Galvan and asked him what gang he claimed.
Ramon Galvan, according to his lawyer, said "Me, myself and I. U.S. Army."
Detectives opted against charging Ramon Galvan with a crime. The authorities let Susan Galvan see her husband, and she collapsed on the floor when he told her their son was dead. The next day, Galvan returned to the hospital, seeking treatment for a shoulder that was broken in three places.
He claims that his injuries are the result of excessive force by the police.
The main question of the trial is whether the police incurred any liability in Galvan's death, and crucial testimony will come from Perez, who was on the floor, near the foot of Galvan's bed, when the police arrived.
Both sides agree that Perez yelled "Don't do it" to Sammy Galvan before the officers shot him, but just what Galvan might have been doing is in dispute. After shots rang out, the young man fell on the floor, landing behind a television and desk that stood between him and the officers.
Perez, who is on the witness lists for both sides, could not be reached for comment. In a letter to The Bee shortly after her boyfriend died, she said the truth would come out when the Galvans get their day in court.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.