The family of Yuvette Henderson, family attorney Dan Siegel and an advocacy group calling themselves the The Anti Police-Terror Project, gathered at the Ron Dellums Federal Building in downtown Oakland this afternoon to announce the filing of a federal civil lawsuit against the City of Emeryville and the officers involved in her shooting last February. Siegel, a civil-rights attorney, had previously presented a claim to the City of Emeryville on behalf of Ms. Henderson’s estate and her family for an unspecified amount. This claim was rejected by Council and is often a preliminary step before a civil suite is filed according to City Attorney Michael Guina.
On February 2, 2015, Yuvette Henderson – a mother of four and a grandmother – was killed by officers from the Emeryville Police department with an AR-15 military style assault weapon on the Oakland/Emeryville border. Since then the family and the community have worked tirelessly to expose contradictions of The State’s narrative – some of which the media has colluded with – and to achieve basic justice such as transparency with recorded evidence and the release of the autopsy report. In the interest of justice, the family and legal counsel are proceeding with legal action through the courts. The details of such action, as well as the factors that led up to the action will be announced at the press conference.
Siegel and members of the APTP swarmed Emeryville Council Chamber back in September demanding the release of a Coroner report that was backlogged with Alameda County. The City took a stand by issuing a letter to the Coroner’s Bureau asking that the report be expedited and this request has since been satisfied.
According to the EPD report, Henderson was approached for stealing knives by two loss-prevention officers at the Home Depot. When confronted, she became combative, refused to be detained and brandished a gun that was hidden under a towel. The loss-prevention officers backed off and then called the EPD. Henderson fled on foot down Hollis, allegedly trying to carjack three motorists at gunpoint in an apparent attempt to flee the scene. Officers Michelle Shepherd and Warren Williams located Henderson near the Extra Space Storage building when Henderson allegedly brandished the revolver again. Officer Shepherd fired a single shot that apparently did not strike Henderson. Williams then fired six shots from an AR-15 rifle. The gunfire from Williams was reported to have struck Henderson in the head and arm. Emergency personnel were then called but Henderson died at the scene. It was the third officer involved shooting in the previous 40 years, the most recent being this July 4th, 2005 incident at the Oaks Card Club.
APTP Co-founder Cat Brooks, Attorney Dan Siegel, the Family of Yuvette Henderson and supports appeared at today’s press conference to announce the suit.
The ten-page wrongful death complaint and demand for a trial filed today lists unspecified financial & punitive damages to be awarded to Yuvette’s children Isaiah & Cierra. Four additional children of Yuvette are listed in the complaint as “whereabouts are unknown” or “unaware of his/her surname”. The complaint is contesting that Henderson was a threat and that the officers “made no attempt to take her into custody peacefully and with no regard for her known head injury.”
The complaint lists seven claims including:
- Use of Excessive Force
- Violation of Parental Right to Familial Relationship
- Violation of a child’s Right to Familial Relationship
- Failure to train
- Violation of California Bane Act
- Battery by a Police Officer
- Wrongful Death
Damages are listed as “to be determined” but would include attorney’s fees, injunctive relief, costs of suit and “Other & further relief as the Court may seem proper”. Siegel noted that he expects a judge to be assigned to the case within the next few days. According to City Attorney Michael Guina, “The City has not been served with the complaint and we have not seen its contents or the allegations contained in the document. Once the complaint is properly served on the City, we will provide a timely answer.” Statistically, most civil suites of this nature end in a settlement prior to trial.
Emeryville Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada, who was hired seven months after the incident, has released the following statement in response to a request for comment:
The incident that occurred on February 3, 2015 is certainly a tragedy for the family and for the officers involved. The facts of the case are that Ms. Henderson had a gun with which she threatened to shoot several civilians. Emeryville Police Department (EPD) officers responded to the frantic 911 calls for help. Upon arriving on scene the officers saw that Ms. Henderson had a gun in her hand and was confronting civilians who were trapped in their cars. Ms Henderson also pointed her gun in the direction of the EPD officers. The officers yelled several times to Ms Henderson to drop the gun but she refused to do so and continued to point it at the officers while walking towards the occupied cars. The officers fired their weapons to protect the civilians and themselves from the lethal force that Ms. Henderson presented. The officers had to make a split second decision and they did so in accordance with the training they have received by our department which is also in accordance with the State of California Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training. All the facts in this case support our findings that the officers involved were justified in the use of deadly force when faced with deadly force.
Siegel recently represented the family of Alan Blueford who was killed in a controversial 2012 Oakland PD officer involved shooting. Blueford was on felony probation for a robbery and in possession of a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol when he was pursued and shot by OPD Officer Miguel Masso. Blueford’s family settled with the Oakland PD before the case went to trial for $110,000. The 69-year-old attorney and former school board member and Oakland Mayoral candidate identifies himself as a progressive and helped write Oakland’s community policing law.
There’s been much discussion over the “militarization” of police but by current definition, the distinction of an “assault weapon” is whether it is automatic or semi-automatic. Our military is equipped with automatic versions of AR-15’s but our police are issued semi-automatic versions. Automatic versions can fire 950 rounds per minute while a semi-automatic version can fire 45-60 per minute depending on the skill of the operator. The line is blurred when the term “military style” is used which generally refers to a more “militaristic” appearance including collapsible stocks, detachable magazines, pistol grips and flash Suppressors. AR-15’s are the most popular rifles sold in the U.S. and millions have been sold to citizens since 1963 (Source: assaultweapon.info). [CORRECTION: Their seems to be some political controversy over the use of the term outlined here in Wikipedia that may include semi-automatic weaponry.]
Image Source: MercuryNews.com
A copy of the Complaint for Damages has been scanned and uploaded to SlideShare: