By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The mother of the mentally ill man, who shot and killed a San Luis Obispo police detective, wounded another officer and died in the deadly shootout, has filed a wrongful death claim alleging officers’ gunfire, not a self-inflicted wound, killed her son. [Tribune]
Edward Giron’s mother Caroline Wichman filed the wrongful death claim on Thursday against the city, as well as the county, of San Luis Obispo. In the claim, Wichman alleges law enforcement made improper tactical moves in the lead-up to and during the deadly shootout, and they have since been engaged in a coverup about what transpired.
On May 10, six officers attempted to serve a search warrant at Giron’s San Luis Obispo apartment. When Giron did not respond to police, officers broke down the door of the apartment and found him lying in wait, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
A shootout ensued, during which Giron shot and killed Detective Luca Benedetti. Detective Steve Orozco was shot multiple times but survived. Giron died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Giron was shot 14 times during the shootout, according to an autopsy report compiled by a forensic pathologist hired by Giron’s family. The autopsy found Giron was shot 10 times from the front and four times from behind. The San Luis Obispo man was shot once in the left temple, six times in the torso, three times in the buttocks and four times in his extremities.
Wichman alleges in her claim that officers mishandled the tactical entry of Giron’s house. SLO police personnel and other law enforcement officers shot Giron out of revenge when he was no longer a threat to public safety and killed him unlawfully, Wichman alleges. Also, friendly fire injured one or more officers, Wichman claims.
SLO police and other law enforcement conspired to proliferate a false narrative to the public that her son shot and killed himself, Wichman states in the claim.
The city of San Luis Obispo has refused to release body camera footage of the shootout because it would vindicate her son and incriminate officers, Wichman alleges. Giron’s mother also claims the city has destroyed at least some of the body camera footage and may have tampered with other sections of it.
City officials say they are currently withholding records related to the deadly shootout as both the sheriff’s office conducts an investigation and the city conducts an internal probe.
Wichman’s claim also alleges SLO police and other law enforcement publicly denied Giron’s history of mental illness.
At a press conference following the shootout, SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said local law enforcement had no record of Giron being mentally ill. Yet, over the months leading up to his death, friends, family and neighbors of Giron warned SLO police repeatedly that he was mentally ill.
San Luis Obispo public communications manger Whitney Szentesi said, though Giron had a history of third-party concerns about his mental health, he never previously displayed violent behavior toward officers, nor did he disclose that he was a violent threat to himself or others. Giron did not meet the legal criteria for being placed in an involuntary mental health hold, Szentesi said.
Wichman is seeking more than $25,000 from both the city and the county for pain and suffering, emotional distress, restitution and punitive damages. If officials reject her claim, Wichman can file a lawsuit.