Family of mentally ill teen killed by California police files suit
The family of a mentally ill teenage girl who was holding a cordless power drill when she was shot dead by a California police officer exactly one year ago filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer on Friday.
James and Victoria Caulfield-Showman filed the wrongful death suit against San Jose police officer Wakana Okuma for the shooting death of their bi-polar daughter, 19-year-old Diana Showman, in a federal San Jose court.
The suit said Diana Showman called police on the morning of Aug. 14, 2014 claiming she had locked her mother and brother in a bedroom and threatened to shoot them if police did not respond. She also asked the dispatcher if lying to police was illegal, the suit said.
Officer Okuma arrived and saw Showman exit the home with a phone in one hand and a drill, which she mistook for an Uzi sub-machine gun, in the other, according to the complaint.
Showman slowly walked toward her, waving the drill in the air, and as she got within about 15 feet, Okuma fatally shot her with an AR-15 rifle, according to the complaint.
The suit said Okuma never warned Showman that she would shoot, did not use appropriate crisis management strategies, and failed to use a scope equipped on her rifle to identify the object.
Representatives for the San Jose Police Department could not be reached immediately for comment. The local San Jose Mercury News said police referred their calls to city attorney Rick Doyle, who told the paper he had not seen the suit and could not comment.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office released a 57-page report in June deeming Okuma’s actions lawful, saying the drill was spray painted black to resemble a firearm and that officers ordered her multiple times to drop it.
The shooting is one of at least four police killings the attorney’s office has deemed lawful so far this year, at least three of which involved a mentally ill person.
Showman’s parents are suing for damages.
The filing comes amid a public outcry against police violence nationwide, particularly against minorities, in the wake of several high-profile police killings of unarmed black men over the past year in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.