The parents of a homeless drug addict who died last year while being arrested by Modesto police have filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit against the city, Police Chief Galen Carroll and five officers.
Garrett Schmidt, 33, was naked and smeared with blood and feces when he reportedly broke into a Grantland Court home, off Morris Avenue, after 10 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2016, police said at the time. A half-dozen neighbors had called 911, saying Schmidt apparently was under the influence and on a rampage, police said.
The lawsuit says Schmidt was unarmed and “posed no significant or immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to anyone” as he lay face down with one arm handcuffed behind his back. Six officers punched and shot him with a stun gun, the lawsuit says, causing a heart attack and an anoxic brain injury resulting from lack of oxygen, putting him in a coma until he died in a hospital three days later.
One of the officers, Sgt. Michael Pershall, was not named in the lawsuit because he was killed in August by a suspected drunken driver who hit Pershall as he rode a bicycle off-duty near his east Modesto home.
The arresting officers neglected to “simply grab and handcuff Schmidt’s remaining unhandcuffed arm,” the lawsuit says. “The use of deadly force was not justified or lawful under the circumstances,” says the document, filed in federal court by the dead man’s parents, James and Cynthia Schmidt.
Neither their attorney nor city attorneys were available for comment.
The officers then “engaged in a code of silence to cover up violations” of Garrett Schmidt’s Constitutional rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments, the lawsuit says. The officers refused to “truthfully report what they saw” and did, the document claims. The unwritten code wrongly expects that an officer will not “provide adverse information against a fellow officer,” the lawsuit says, quoting from case precedent.
Just after the arrest, police told The Modesto Bee that residents of a home on Grantland locked themselves in a bedroom and a bathroom when Schmidt, who also assaulted an off-duty probation officer next door, broke through the window of a back door, moved about the house, climbed on a bed, tore blinds from a window and broke out the screen before police arrived to subdue him. In the struggle, officers used beanbag guns and Tasers, and Schmidt suffered a medical emergency requiring CPR, police said.
The officers were not injured and were placed on administrative leave during a criminal and administrative investigation, police said.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390