Claim filed against Modesto in officer-involved shooting

Emergency crews work on Christopher Fletcher in downtown Modesto on Dec. 17 after he was shot by police.
Emergency crews work on Christopher Fletcher in downtown Modesto on Dec. 17 after he was shot by police. Modesto Bee file

The family of a 24-year-old man fatally shot by Modesto police in December has filed a claim against the city.

The claim was filed by Donna Fletcher in the Dec. 17 death of her son, Christopher. She filed the claim on behalf of a minor child. Fletcher and the law firm representing her and the minor – the Orange County office of Layfield & Barrett – did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment. That claim states the amount sought exceeds $25,000.

Christopher Fletcher was shot in the parking garage of the Merrill Lynch building at 801 Tenth St. Police have said Fletcher pulled a loaded .44-caliber revolver and failed to comply with officers’ orders to drop the gun. Officers had tried to stop Fletcher for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and he led them on a brief chase that ended in the garage. He ditched the bike in the garage and tried to flee on foot.

Police identified the officers in the shooting as Tom Fara – a 20-year law enforcement veteran – and Brent Salyer, who had been an officer for eight months and was being trained by Fara. The claim names the two officers and alleges they and the Police Department “are liable for the wrongful death of Christopher Fletcher.”

A claim can be the precursor to filing a lawsuit.

Police Chief Galen Carroll reviewed the body camera footage from the shooting with Bee columnist Jeff Jardine in May. Jardine wrote that the footage showed Fletcher moving away from the officers while fumbling for his gun. The officers saw the gun and twice demanded he drop it. Jardine wrote that when Fletcher kept trying to draw his gun, the officers fired multiple times.

The Police Department awarded Fara and Salyer the medal of valor for their actions.

Donna Fletcher acknowledged to Jardine that her son had had a troubled life, which included juvenile hall, drug addiction, convictions on domestic violence charges, possession of burglary tools and a probation violation that sent him to prison. Fletcher had been released from prison in April 2015 after serving time on a domestic violence conviction. He had been released to the supervision of Stanislaus County probation officers.

Still, Donna Fletcher said the officers should have waited longer before shooting. “The gun was pointed at the floor,” she said. “He never raised it.”

Carroll also reviewed the body camera footage with Fletcher and her husband, except for the part where officers started shooting. Carroll has said the officers did what they had to do.

“The officers used as much restraint as they could,” Carroll said Tuesday, adding that Fletcher refused the officers’ commands. “I don’t know what else the officers were supposed to do. I’m just glad he did not hurt an innocent person.”

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316