Stanislaus County has agreed to pay $7 million to the husband and young son of the woman who was fatally shot in her vehicle by one of its sheriff’s deputies in Ripon.
The attorneys for plaintiffs Hanibal Yadegar and his son, and defendants Stanislaus County and Deputy Justin Wall, came to the agreement during mediation in June and a judge approved an application for the agreement last month.
Yadegar said Wednesday he is pleased with the settlement but that it is just one part of a “two-pronged approach for justice.”
The criminal case against Wall, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter, is ongoing. A trial is scheduled for January.
“Up until a week ago I had two issues on my mind and now I only have to deal with the one, but the biggest part is coming up,” Yadegar said.
The settlement effectively absolves the county of further liability.
“Given the exposure to the defendants and the expense of litigation, the county felt that it would be best for all of the involved parties to resolve this case,” Stanislaus County Counsel Thomas Boze said in a prepared statement to The Bee. “County Counsel resolution of this case allows everyone to attempt to move on from this tragedy by bringing some measure of closure to all parties, including the Yadegar family.”
Stanislaus County spokeswoman Amy Vickery said the settlement will be covered by insurance. She could not provide responses to other questions, including how much the county spent litigating the case and how the settlement compares to other wrongful death cases against the county.
The civil case isn’t entirely over because the city of Ripon, also sued by Yadegar, did not agree to settle.
The wrongful death lawsuit stems from the Feb. 26, 2017, shooting of Evin Olsen Yadegar, whom Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies attempted to contact after a security guard at a Salida hotel reported she’d been physically confrontational with him.
A deputy saw her leaving the hotel in her Volkswagen Jetta and followed her as she headed north on Highway 99.
More deputies responded to the high speed pursuit as it moved off the highway and into Ripon, going south on Manley Road and stopping near Tornell Circle.
There were four Stanislaus County deputies, a sergeant and a Ripon Police Department officer at the scene when Evin Yadegar put the Jetta in reverse, backed up slightly, then put the car back in drive.
Video footage from a Ripon patrol car dashboard camera shows the Jetta maneuver to the right, around the patrol vehicle Wall was driving and had parked partially in front of the car.
Wall shot Evin Yadegar as she was driving forward and away from him.
The lawsuit alleges the officers at the scene violated multiple state mandated policies and other regulations including where they parked their vehicles, how they approached and where they stood around Evin Yadegar’s vehicle, and their actions toward a woman they knew or should have known was suffering from a mental illness. Hanibal Yadegar has said his wife had bipolar disorder and was suffering a manic episode.
“There was a complete lack of supervision, procedure and acceptable practice executed at this vehicle stop,” the complaint reads, adding that it created “an out of control ‘free for all’ situation.”
Hanibal Yadegar’s attorney Stewart Tabak said on Wednesday that Stanislaus County deputies and a Ripon officer improperly positioned themselves behind the Jetta.
“That created Wall’s claimed defense of shooting her to protect that officer (and deputies) even though as we can see in the video that car was no longer moving backwards, it was moving forward when he shot,” Tabak said.
The claim alleges Wall negligently discharged his firearm multiple times at an unarmed woman and that the movements she made with her vehicle “did not pose any threat, danger or potential for harm to any rational and/or reasonable person in the immediate vicinity.”
More than a year after the shooting, Wall was charged in San Joaquin County with voluntary manslaughter. In March, a judge determined there was enough evidence for Wall to go to trial.
In a motion to contest the settlement agreement between Yadegar’s family and Stanislaus County, the city of Ripon contends $7 million is far too low a settlement — particularly because Wall was charged criminally. The city’s motion said similar cases have settled for $16 million. Ripon believes all the fault lies with the county and the deputy.
“The County and Deputy Wall clearly have all culpability, and their settlement for only a share of Plaintiff’s claimed damages would expose the City to disproportionate liability,” the motion reads.
Judge George J. Abdellah Jr. during a hearing on Oct. 16 found that Ripon did not meet its burden of proof and dismissed its claim.
Tabak said Ripon “didn’t like the fact that they should have to pay for their own negligence. The county is stepping up to the plate and paying their fair share; Ripon ought pay their fair share.”
Mary-Beth Moylan, a law professor at the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, said “One would think Ripon would want to get in on (the) settlement.”
She said the city might be planning an “empty chair” defense if the case goes to trial, meaning they would put all the blame on the county, which is no longer part of the lawsuit because of the settlement.
“They will say it’s all the county’s fault and that’s why they settled,” Moylan said. “Ripon is making a strategic decision not to settle but it is risky because if a jury wants to punish someone, they might not go for the empty chair response.”