The parents of a man killed in a deputy-involved shooting in Canyon Country have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county of Los Angeles and the Sheriff’s Department.
Plaintiffs Miguel Hernandez and Anna Hernandez allege that the unidentified deputy sheriff who shot their 39-year-old son, Miguel A. Hernandez, on Jan. 14 following a traffic stop violated his – and his family members’ – 4th and 14th Amendment protections.
Their civil suit notes that the parents are Hispanic and accuses the deputy of using “unreasonable, unjustified force and violence, causing injuries which resulted in (their son’s) death, all without provocation, and all in violation of the rights, privileges and immunities” of the amendments.
The parents specifically allege that they, the parents, have the right under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to be “free from state actions that deprive them of life, liberty, or property in such a manner to shock the conscience,” to wit, “unwarranted state interference in their familial relationship with their son,” who is now dead.
What “shocked the conscience,” according to the complaint, was “shooting at an unarmed person, shooting at a non-dangerous person, shooting at that person when that person did not pose a threat, apply pressure to the body of someone who has just been shot, failing to summon medical care promptly,” and participating in the mentioned conduct.
Hernandez’ parents are seeking compensation for their “grief, emotional distress and pain and suffering and loss of comfort and society (and) loss of support.”
In addition suing the county and the law enforcement agency, they are seeking additional punitive damages from the individual deputy or deputies.
Attorney John Burton
The incident occurred around 7:50 p.m. near Shangri-La Drive and Nathan Hill Drive. According to a subsequent news release from Sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Boese, a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s deputy saw a vehicle that matched the description from an “assault with a deadly weapon” call the previous day in Newhall.
Hernandez was behind the wheel of the vehicle the deputy saw on Shangri-La Drive in Canyon Country. Another adult male passenger was also in the car.
“(The deputy) conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle,” according to the Sheriff Department news release. “As soon as the vehicle came to a stop, the driver quickly exited the vehicle and started yelling profanities at the deputy while appearing to (challenge the deputy) to a fight.
“The deputy gave several commands to the driver to put his hands in the air,” according to the news release. “The driver refused to comply. The deputy continued to give commands to the driver. The driver ignored all commands, turned his body and aggressively reached behind his back appearing to retrieve a weapon, and began to draw the possible weapon on the deputy.”
“The suspect was struck by gunfire and transported to a local hospital where he was pronounce dead,” the news release states. “A knife was recovered at the scene.”
The statement did not specify who had been in possession of the knife, and there was no indication that a gun was found at the scene.
According to the complaint filed by Hernandez’s parents, their son was “lawfully driving his own car on Shangri-La Drive in Santa Clarita” when an unidentified deputy “effected a traffic stop as Miguel was turning left onto Nathan Hill Drive.”
“There was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the traffic stop,” according to the complaint.
“After complying by stopping the car,” the complaint alleges, “Miguel opened the door and got out to ask the deputy why he had been stopped, as there was no apparent reason for the traffic stop. Miguel had nothing in his hands and was not belligerent. The deputy ordered Miguel to get back in the car. As Miguel turned to comply with the instruction to get back in the car the deputy fired one shot from his pistol, which struck Miguel, who then dropped to ground. The deputy then placed body weight on Miguel rather than applying first aid. Medical aid was not summoned promptly.
“By the time medical responders arrived and transported Miguel to the hospital it was too late to save his life.”
The parents are represented by John Burton, a high-profile Pasadena attorney who specializes in “representing people who have been injured by law enforcement officers, including deaths and serious injuries,” according to his website. It identifies him as president of the National Police Accountability Project and says he is known “nationally for representing victims of police misconduct.”
A spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said she was unaware of the complaint, which was filed April 15 in federal court in Los Angeles. A summons was issued and the case was assigned to a judge the same day.