SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A jury has decided that Southern California police officers did not use excessive force when they shot and killed a man behaving erratically at a crowded sports complex five years ago.
Jurors ruled that Huntington Beach officers Trevor Jackson and Casey Thomas acted appropriately for the defense of human life when they fired at Steven Schlitz, the Orange County Register reported Friday.
Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, who defended the officers in the civil case, said he was pleased with the verdict. Gates said the officers were trying to protect a woman and her child who they believed Schiltz was about to attack.
Dale Galipo, who represented Schiltz’s mother, Angela Hernandez, expressed disappointment.
“I still feel it was an excessive shooting and not a necessary shooting,” Galipo told the Register.
Police had responded following 911 calls reporting that Schlitz, 29, was hitting a tree with what looked like a baseball bat. The officers arrived to find Schiltz holding what they believed to be a sharpened down stick, according to court records.
Schiltz ignored the officers’ request to talk, according to court records, and started running around a soccer stadium that was filled with people.
City attorneys argued that Schiltz made a “threatening move” toward the mother and young son, a claim that was disputed by attorneys for Schiltz’s family.
Schiltz’s relatives previously said he had a history of mental illness. In their lawsuit, the family members denied he posed an immediate threat to others when he was shot and killed.
A federal judge in 2018 threw out the federal civil rights lawsuit, ruling that there was no indication that the officers were liable for wrongdoing.
An appeals court upheld most of the federal judge’s ruling, with the exception of allegations of state battery or state negligence, leading to the case being refiled in state court and to the recent jury trial.