Stockton CA Wrongful Death: $10M Civil Rights Suit Filed Over Fatal Shooting

09/19/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, US // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Stockton, CA—The city of Stockton, San Joaquin County and three law enforcement officers were named as defendants in a $10 million civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday, September 15, 2010. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the mother of a 16-year-old boy who was fatally shot by officers after a police chase in July, according to information provided by the Stockton Record.

Reports indicated the civil rights lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and seeks a supplementary $1.5 million verdict against three Stockton Police officers who were involved in the fatal shooting.

Authorities reported James Rivera, 16, was driving a stolen van on July 22. Rivera allegedly fled the scene when officers attempted to pull him over, subsequently prompting a pursuit.

One officer apparently rammed his patrol car into the stolen van, causing Rivera to lose control of the vehicle. The van then smashed into a garage at Bancroft Way and Salters Drive.

The police officers involved then allegedly ordered Rivera to exit the wrecked van.

However, authorities contended Stockton police Officers Eric Azarvand and Gregory Dunn, as well as sheriff’s Deputy John Thomas Nesbitt began shooting at the teen when the stolen van seemed to be reversing towards them.

Nonetheless, some witnesses and critics have disputed the officers’ account of what they say happened on that day.

The civil rights lawsuit claims the Stockton officers were liable for Rivera’s alleged wrongful death and were “laughing and congratulating each other after the shooting.”

Pending litigation also alleges Rivera “did not pose any imminent threat” in the moments after he crashed the stolen van.

The lawsuit also claims Rivera was unarmed during the incident. Additionally, officials have allegedly declined to release Rivera’s autopsy report.

According to Rivera’s mother, Dion Smith, “I feel what they done was wrong… My son didn’t have a chance to be 17. … They murdered my son. They assassinated my son.”

A spokesperson for the Stockton Police Department, Officer Pete Smith, stated, “We are confident that our officers acted justifiably, but just like the Rivera family, we have to wait for the report… We’re in a wait-and-see mode like everybody else.”

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is leading the probe into the fatal summer shooting. The case continues.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan– Legal News for California Civil Rights Lawyers.

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