Neighbor explains what she heard at Ripon officer-involved shooting
It's been nearly a year since a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy shot to death a Modesto woman after a police pursuit that started in Salida ended with a crash into a house in Ripon.
Evin Olsen Yadegar's family this week was still waiting for results of an investigation by San Joaquin County prosecutors to determine if the deadly shooting was justified.
But Stewart Tabak, the family's Stockton-based attorney, already has filed a civil lawsuit against Stanislaus County, alleging it failed to "adequately train and supervise its sheriff's deputies" which resulted in a use of "excessive force."
"It's a strong case," Tabak said about the Yadegar family's lawsuit. ""I'd be very surprised if charges are not brought against Deputy (Justin) Wall."
Authorities say Yadegar, 46, was shot by the deputy after she did not respond to commands to exit the vehicle and then put it in reverse, driving toward two deputies and a Ripon police officer.
The Yadegars' attorney called the deputy's actions an "execution" of a woman with clear signs of mental health problems who was unarmed and exhibited "no dangerous behavior."
Tabak questioned why did only one deputy fire his gun if Yadegar drove in reverse toward two deputies and a Ripon police officer? "Their safety was never threatened," the attorney said.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, at a news conference a few days after the shooting, has said Wall is a well-trained deputy and a K-9 officer who has been with the Sheriff's Department since 2013 with no prior deadly force encounters. Christianson could not be reached for comment this week.
“His personnel file is full of nothing but attaboys, if you’ll call them that, from peers, supervisors and citizens," the sheriff has said about Wall. "He’s a good deputy sheriff.”
The Yadegar family first filed a claim seeking damages from Stanislaus County on April 12. The claim was rejected on May 5, according to the wrongful death lawsuit that claims the woman's civil rights were violated.
"We are sorry for the loss suffered by the Yadegar family, and we hope to resolve the recently served lawsuit to allow the family to bring closure to this tragic incident," Stanislaus County Counsel John Doering this week. "We have no further comment at this time."
The San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting to determine if the deputy's use of force was justified. Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau, a spokesman for the office, said this week that the shooting investigation continues, and prosecutors had not made a determination.
The prosecutors said investigations into officer-involved shootings typically take about a year to complete in San Joaquin County. Himelblau said it's an extensive process that usually involves follow-up investigation, coroner officials, the state Department of Justice and the police agency that has jurisdiction where the shooting occurred.
He said the District Attorney's Office is working to come up with solutions to streamline these types of investigations, so families won't be left waiting so long for answers.
"It takes a while, but we're working to speed-up the process," Himelblau said.
Yadegar and her husband, Hanibal Yadegar, co-owned the popular Barkin’ Dog eatery in downtown Modesto. Their attorney said Hanibal Yadegar did not want to comment for this news story.
Tabak filed the civil lawsuit on Oct. 26 in San Joaquin County on behalf of Yadegar's husband and their son. The attorney said Tuesday that once he received reports and video footage from the shooting investigation, he will file an amended lawsuit with more detailed information.
The deputies did not have body cameras during the incident, but Ripon police officers do wear body cameras. Police officials have said all video footage from patrol vehicle and body cameras will be reviewed as part of the investigation.
The shooting occurred in the early hours of Feb. 26. The incident began when Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies responded to the call at 2:56 a.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites in the 4900 block of Sisk Road in Salida.
Christianson has said a security guard reported that Yadegar had begun an argument and a physical confrontation with him. A deputy arrived at the hotel and saw Yadegar’s vehicle leaving the area. The pursuit ensued, heading north on Highway 99 into San Joaquin County.
At 3:17 a.m., Yadegar's vehicle exited the highway and continued into Ripon, heading south on South Manley Road and stopping near Tornell Circle. Ripon police officers had joined the chase.
Law enforcement at the scene included six sheriff's deputies, a Sheriff’s Department Explorer and three Ripon police officers. The deputies and the officers tried to get Yadegar out of the vehicle. The shots were fired at 3:20 a.m., according to Christianson.
Ripon police Chief Edward Ormonde has said the deputy fired four shots at Yadegar, but the chief would not say on how many struck the woman and where. He has said Yadegar then put the car in drive, maneuvered around patrol vehicles and turned onto Tornell Circle.
The vehicle briefly stopped on Tornell, when officers and deputies again tried to make contact with Yadegar. But she accelerated down Tornell Circle and crashed into the front of a home, according to Ormonde.