The Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association has come out in support of member Justin Wall, saying he was upholding the law and protecting the community when he fatally shot Modesto resident Evin Olsen Yadegar early last year in Ripon.
When, after a pursuit from Salida, she stopped in a Ripon neighborhood and was penned in by peace officers, Yadegar made “an intentional attempt to strike two Officers with her vehicle within a second or two prior to any shot being discharged,” SSDA President Randon Kirkbride wrote in a post on the association’s Facebook page last week. “A vehicle is a deadly weapon when used in such a manner.”
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On Monday, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office filed charges of voluntary manslaughter against Wall, who was among the Stanislaus sheriff’s deputies and Ripon police officers on scene and was the only one to fire his weapon. The criminal complaint filed by DA Tori Verber Salazar against the deputy says he “willfully, unlawfully and without malice” killed Yadegar. Wall has been placed on paid administrative leave.
A Ripon Police Department dashboard camera captured the scene on South Manley Road in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 2017. It shows that about 49 seconds elapsed between the time Yadegar stopped her Volkswagen sedan near Tornell Circle and when Wall fired four rounds at her.
During that time, she’s quickly approached by deputies and officers including some with their handguns drawn, a K9 officer and an officer who appears to be wielding a baton. Most are at the driver’s side of the car; a couple are at the rear.
Yadegar puts her car in reverse and backs up what looks to be no more than a foot or two before stopping. Two officers quickly move away. She puts her car in drive and pulls around to the right of a Sheriff’s Department vehicle that had stopped in front of her. At that point, Wall — one of those who was to the side of her car — takes a couple of steps toward her and fires.
The SSDA statement says, “What has not been mentioned is that the decedent had been engaged in dangerous, felonious behavior that endangered the lives of officers and the public.”
It was reported by The Moesto Bee from as early as Feb. 28, 2017, that the incident started with a 911 call of an assault on a security guard at the Hampton Inn & Suites in the 4000 block of Sisk Road in Salida.
At a news conference, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said the guard reported Yadegar had begun a verbal and physical altercation with him. Yadegar was not a guest at the inn, said Christianson, adding that why she was there wasn’t known. When a deputy arrived, he saw Yadegar’s vehicle leaving and chased her.
A lawsuit filed against Stanislaus County by attorney Stewart Tabak on behalf of Yadegar’s husband, Hanibal, and their son says Evin Yadegar calmly and lawfully left the hotel premises when told to, but law enforcement pursued her though no known crime had been committed and she’d not behaved violently.
Throughout the pursuit, it says, she drove in a “safe, non-threatening and peaceful manner” and eventually pulled over “to comply with the pursuing patrol vehicles.”
Just days after her death, Hanibal Yadegar told The Bee his wife was loving, kind and creative, would not hurt anyone and had never been in trouble but had a bipolar disorder and was undergoing a manic episode at the time of the pursuit. He said it started in January when she stopped taking her medication.
Running the plates of her car that night would have turned up only her as the registered owner, he said, so he got no call from authorities about what was happening. Modesto police knew her mental health history because he’d reported a domestic disturbance at their home about a week before.
“He was trying to give her medication and she did not want it,” Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Heather Graves said at the time. “She became agitated and kicked him and his brother out of the house and locked them out.”
Unfortunately, Hanibal Yadegar said, Modesto police weren’t involved in the pursuit into Ripon, so his wife’s mental health information apparently wasn’t conveyed.
Lynn Padlo, retired director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Stanislaus, said she realizes the officers and deputies at the Ripon scene were “in a hard place.” They may have perceived Yadegar, who likely was fearful and trying to get away, was using her car as a deadly weapon, she said.
A lot of peace officers within Stanislaus County have received crisis intervention training, Padlo said, but it should be mandatory. “We have a BHRS (Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) that does care and has trained many officers.”
According to the November 2016 Stanislaus County Mental Health Board annual report to the Board of Supervisors, among the goals of the 40-hour annual training is to reduce use-of-force incidents by officers when encountering emotionally disturbed individuals. “Responses from officers and other graduates have shown that the information and training from these academies has made dealing with individuals with mental illness safer for both officers and citizens,” it says.
Padlo, whose daughter has a bipolar disorder, said the training includes role-playing exercises in de-escalation tactics. She said she’s devastated for the Yadegar family “because I know from my daughter’s illness that they’re not themselves (during manic episodes) and they have a real lot of energy that comes out.”
If an officer on scene recognized Evin Yadegar’s mental illness that dark morning, “I think it would have mattered” in the outcome, Padlo said.