Suit filed in officer-involved fatal shooting
The family of a man fatally shot by law enforcement during a confrontation last year has filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Attorney Patrick Dwyer said the civil suit on behalf of the family and estate of Gabriel Strickland, which he expected to serve on the county Monday, is less about financial compensation and more about pushing for police reform.
The suit names the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Grass Valley Police Department, and Wellpath — which provides medical services at the county jail — as defendants, demands a jury trial and requests $10 million.
“The family of Gabriel Strickland does not seek vengeance against anyone,” Dwyer said. “Quite the contrary. The family hopes that the lawsuit leads to positive changes in Nevada County and throughout California regarding the treatment of the mentally disabled.”
The suit lists the violation of Strickland’s civil and statutory rights by unlawful use of force and deliberate indifference to medical needs as the main causes of action.
Nevada County Counsel Kit Elliott and Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard both declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Strickland, 25, died Jan. 1, 2020, after Nevada County sheriff’s deputies and Grass Valley police officers responded to a report of an armed man walking down Squirrel Creek Road.
Strickland was shot after he pointed what was believed to be a shotgun at officers. He was hit multiple times and died after he was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. Deputies Brandon Tripp and Taylor King, and Grass Valley Police Officer Brian Hooper, were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but subsequently returned to duty.
An investigative report released by the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office in October found the officers’ actions were “clearly reasonable and legally justifiable under the circumstances.” The report noted Tripp, King and Hooper fired a combined 13 shots in a matter of seconds and stated Strickland’s cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, with methamphetamine intoxication as a significant contributing factor.
“These types of incidents — and this incident in particular — are difficult and devastating for the community, the family and the officers involved,” Gammelgard said at the time.
Dwyer said the suit is intended to stimulate positive change on several fronts.
“How do we better handle the mentally ill at the Wayne Brown Correctional facility?” he said. “Do we need … better training or supervision? What about 24/7 on-site psychiatric staffing? What procedures should be mandated … before releasing a mentally ill arrestee?”
Dwyer also cited changes that need to be made regarding the detention and arrest of mentally ill suspects. His suggestions included making medical personnel with psychiatric training available, as well as additional training for officers in de-escalation techniques.
“None of these questions are easy to answer, but as citizens, we are ultimately responsible for directing how law enforcement handles the mentally disabled,” he said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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