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Case Name Vaughn v. City of Seaside PN-CA-0029
Docket / Court 5:99-cv-20462-RMW ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
This case predates PACER, so its documents are not available electronically.

In 1998, Seaside police officers shot and killed an African-American man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. On May 19, 1999, the spouse and children of the decedent brought this lawsuit in the U.S ... read more >
This case predates PACER, so its documents are not available electronically.

In 1998, Seaside police officers shot and killed an African-American man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. On May 19, 1999, the spouse and children of the decedent brought this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging civil rights violations. The plaintiffs sued the City of Seaside, the County of Monterey, the City of Seaside Chief of Police, three individual police officers, and a Monterey County Mental Health Social Worker. This case was assigned to Judge Ronald M. Whyte.

On July 23, 1999, the defendants Monterey County and the social worker filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. On February 28, 2000 Judge Whyte granted the motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs were given 20 days leave to amend, and they filed an subsequent amended complaint. On May 17, 2000 Judge Whyte again granted a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendants Monterey County and the social worker filed a motion for summary judgment on October 4, 2000. Accordingly, on December 20, 2000 Judge Whyte dismissed the defendants Monterey County and the social worker.

Before the incident leading to his death, the decedent had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was receiving treatment and medication for his condition.

The family members of the decedent hired a private agency to look into the the decedent's death. According to an article recounting the encounter between the decedent and the police, this report found that the decedent believed he was doing better and no longer needed his medications, so he stopped taking them. County Officials thought he should remain on his medications and pursued him constantly. On May 19, 1998, two mental health workers showed up at the decedent's home. The decedent told them he did not need their help, but the officials returned with police officers. The police were called because his social worker said he refused to submit to a voluntary welfare hold.

The police officers insisted that the decedent come out of his home. The decedent climbed onto the roof. One officer climbed up onto the roof after the decedent, and they talked for about 15 minutes. Then the officer shot pepper spray into the decedent's face. The officer returned to the ground, and then the scene became chaotic. The police and social workers were screaming at the decedent to surrender while another officer climbed up to the roof and sprayed caustic liquid in the decedent's face. When the decedent appeared to lunge at this officer, the officers on the ground shot at the decedent. The officers on the ground alleged that he threatened an officer who was on the roof with a corkscrew. The police shot the decedent at least four times. The decedent was taken to the hospital where he died of his injuries.

After the report from the private agency was released, the decedent's family settled with the City of Seaside and the Mental Health Department for undisclosed amounts. On January 2, 2001, the court was provided with notice that the parties had reached a settlement, and on March 21, 2001, Judge Whyte dismissed the case with prejudice. The case is now closed.

Impact on Police Interaction with Mentally Ill Individuals

The family and friends of the decedent demanded that the police officers that shot the decedent be terminated and prosecuted, but this never happened. The district attorney's office, who investigated officer-involved shootings, absolved the officers of all wrongdoing. At the time, this was to a recurring issue in Monterey County.

The decedent's son and close friend staged a 19-day hunger strike to call attention to the shooting.

This case changed the methods by which police contact people with mental illnesses. The family members of the decedent learned of a police training program in Memphis, Tennessee, called Crisis Intervention Training that had, in the short time since it was founded, decreased the number of individuals with mental health issues who were killed by police officers. The program changed the way officers were taught to interact with mentally ill suspects, teaching officers to diffuse the situation and see the encounter from the suspect's perspective. Over the course of two years, the family members of the decedent advocated for change and established a county-wide Crisis Intervention Training Academy in Monterey County. This program is provided by Monterey County Mental Health Department. According to the coordinator of the program, it is "an intensive 40-hour police training designed to ensure the safety of people who are in a crisis they can’t control, with a goal of getting them the help they need rather than sending them through the criminal justice system."

As of 2019, the Monterey County holds Crisis Intervention Training programs at least twice per year. Over 1,000 police officers have received at minimum 40 hours of instruction on crisis management. Some police departments in the Monterey County have had 100 percent participation in the program.

Sabrina Glavota - 07/06/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Mental impairment
Aggressive behavior
Excessive force
Improper treatment of mentally ill suspects
Pattern or Practice
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action
Defendant(s) City of Seaside
Plaintiff Description Individual with mental illness
Class action status sought Unknown
Class action status outcome Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filed 05/19/1999
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
PN-CA-0029-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
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Judges Whyte, Ronald M. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burris, John L. (California) show/hide docs
Schwartz, Andrew Charles (California) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Harray, Richard K (California) show/hide docs
Hurley, Vincent P (California) show/hide docs
Katz, Larry Alan (California) show/hide docs
Kruse, Lorie Ann (California) show/hide docs
Silver, Louis D (California) show/hide docs
Tostevin, Nancy P (California) show/hide docs

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