Lawsuit filed against Escondido, police officers in wrongful shooting claim

Lawsuit filed against Escondido, police officers in wrongful shooting claim
The Campos family’s attorney Victor Torres, right, describes the lawsuit at a press conference on Jan. 13. Pedro Campos’s sister, Antonia Campos, said that she decided to file a lawsuit after having difficulty finding out what happened to her brother from the Escondido Police Department. Photo by Rachel Stine

ESCONDIDO — The family of Pedro Campos, who was fatally shot by two Escondido Police officers last year, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the two police officers.

The claim asserts that the city and police officers wrongfully killed Campos and conspired to cover up the circumstances of his death.

Campos had called 911 and requested police assistance the night of May 4, 2013.

Officers Marco Fuentes and Leonard Hand responded and found Campos wielding a knife in the 500 block of Trovita Court, according to statements from the Escondido Police Department.

After the officers repeatedly demanded that Campos drop his weapon, Campos allegedly began approaching the officers. The officers tried unsuccessfully to disarm Campos with a Taser.

Campos reportedly then rushed towards one of the police officers with the knife.

Fuentes and Hand fired five shots, four of which hit Campos’s upper body. Campos died from his injuries less than an hour later.

“We believe the officers used appropriate and reasonable force,” said Escondido’s Assistant City Attorney Michael McGuinness, who is handling the case for the city and the police department.

According to the Campos family’s lawsuit, Campos had called the police in a state of psychological distress.

The claim asserts that the officers made no meaningful effort to deescalate the situation or utilize the Escondido Police Department’s PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) because Campos was shot less than 10 minutes after he made his 911 call.

It cites the conclusion of the county Medical Examiner’s autopsy report that some of the bullets that struck Campos entered his body from back to front. These findings contradict the department’s report that Campos was shot from the front.

The claim also states that two witnesses contradicted the officers’ accounts of the shooting.

McGuinness could not address the specific claims of the lawsuit because the city had not yet received the lawsuit.

He said that the police department had completed its report of the incident and that the matter is currently under review by the county District Attorney’s office, which is responsible for investigating officer involved shootings.

Officers Fuentes and Hand were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting but have since returned to duty.

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 13 in the United States District Court in San Diego.

The Campos family’s attorney Victor Torres held a press conference on Monday to announce the suit’s filing. Campos’s sister Antonia and her family were present, along with representatives from Empowering the Homeless, an Escondido-based social services organization.

“My intention was never to file a civil case, but the circumstances brought us to this,” Antonia Campos said in Spanish, and Torres translated.

She said that her family decided to pursue litigation because the Escondido Police Department did not notify her of her brother’s death until days afterwards and it took three weeks for her to retrieve his body from the Medical Examiner’s office.

McGuinness explained that at the time of the incident, Campos did not have any identification on him and it took time for the department to discover his identity. He said that the family was notified about Campos’s death the morning of May 7.

Campos, a Mexican citizen, was living with friends and working for an acquaintance at the time he was killed, according to Torres.

Representatives from Empowering the Homeless spoke at the press conference to express their concerns about the department’s conduct towards the city’s homeless, poor and immigrants.

The family had previously filed a $3 million civil claim against the city for Campos’s shooting in October 2013.

 

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