10/25/2014

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Family files suit after veteran killed by police

Family files suit after veteran killed by police
In this undated photo provided by the Shergill family is Parminder Singh Shergill. The family of the Army veteran shot and killed by Lodi, Calif., officers has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and police department. (AP Photo/Shergill Family)
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The family of a Gulf War veteran who was fatally shot by police filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming the officers used excessive force.

The suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento includes statements from 17 people who say they witnessed parts of the Jan. 25 incident involving Lodi police officers and Parminder Singh Shergill outside a neighbor's home, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Shergill, 43, who participated in Operation Desert Storm, had post-traumatic stress disorder and was exhibiting signs of a flare-up before two officers shot him, the newspaper said.

The shooting occurred after Shergill's worried mother asked police to look for him after he abruptly left the house in a bad mental state, relatives said.

Lodi police have said officers Scott Bratton and Adam Lockie opened fire after Shergill charged them with a knife.

However, the lawsuit says witnesses reported that Shergill was non-threatening and never appeared to charge the officers. Witnesses also said they saw no weapon in his hands before he was struck with a volley of bullets, the lawsuit states.

Only two witnesses said they saw the actual shooting.

Timothy Antolin said in his statement that he was on the second floor of his home when he heard someone say, "'Stop, we want to talk to you,' and then, 'Drop the weapon.'"

Antolin said he went to a window and heard Shergill shout, "'You talking to me?'" followed by a curse word.

As Shergill spoke, he turned to his left, facing the officers, "but not in a threatening manner, nor did he move toward the officers or close the distance between them," Antolin said in his account.

After the shooting, Antolin saw officers handcuff Shergill and rummage through his clothing. After leaving his house, Antolin said, he saw items strewn about Shergill's body, including a 3-inch folding knife with a belt clip, according to the lawsuit.

Lodi police have declined to release details of the shooting, citing an ongoing investigation involving multiple agencies. The department has released a general explanation saying the two officers had no choice but to kill Shergill after he charged them with a knife.

Police spokesman Lt. Sierra Brucia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Shergill's family attorney, Mark Merin said Thursday the witness statements contradict the police account.

"The further we look into this case, the more adamant we are that this was an unjustified killing," Merin said as he stood with members of Shergill's family outside the federal courthouse.

Merin said he expedited filing the suit and took the unusual step of releasing witness statements in an effort to put pressure on authorities to provide autopsy and toxicology reports, transcripts of 911 calls made from Shergill's mother, and other information that might shed light on why officers shot Shergill.

"We are unable to get any information from the people who know what happened," Merin said. "So we will proceed to seek that information through federal litigation."

Shergill's sister Kulbinder Sohota said family members had previously called the police to take her brother to a clinic or hospital when he was having a mental health episode. Usually, police had been helpful, she said.

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