OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The parents of a 23-year-old man who was fatally shot by Newark police earlier this year during an alleged robbery at a fast food restaurant have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, as well as the officer involved in the shooting.
During a news conference outside federal court in Oakland, the family of Teodoro Valencia Jr., along with activists from the Anti Police-Terror Project, announced the filing of the suit in which they're seeking damages for his wrongful death.
Valencia, a Union City resident, was shot by an officer on March 11 as he was exiting a KFC restaurant following an alleged armed robbery.
Around 9:50 p.m., police responded to the restaurant at 5724 Thornton Ave. after an employee called police, saying an armed man was forcing another employee to open the cash register, according to police.
When officers arrived, they saw an employee through the window with her hands up and the suspect, later identified as Valencia, was seen heading to the back of the restaurant, police said.
An officer then went to the back of the restaurant and witnessed Valencia come out. When the officer allegedly yelled for him to stop, Valencia then turned toward the officer and pointed the gun at him, prompting the officer to fire a single shot, according to police.
Valencia then continued running, but eventually collapsed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Attorney Dan Siegel, who is representing Valencia's family, disputes the officer's description of the events, alleging that the officer never shouted a command to Valencia and shot him in the back, not in the chest as was written in the initial police report.
Additionally, the officer, who police have identified as Officer Conrad Rodgers, used an AR-15 rifle during the shooting, while Valencia was allegedly armed with a pellet gun, according to Siegel.
During Monday's news conference, a brief clip of grainy surveillance video from the restaurant's back parking lot was shown. A person in the video, who Siegel alleged was the officer, can be seen standing behind an open door before another person, allegedly Valencia, then exits the building and appears to run without ever turning around.
"What Officer Rodgers did is really unprecedented. He hid behind the back door of this KFC restaurant as Teo Valencia came out to the parking lot," Siegel said. "There was no effort made to get him to stop, no commands given. The officer just started shooting as he ran across the parking lot."
Rodgers, who has been with the department for more than three years, was initially placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. He remains employed by the department.
Holding back tears while clutching a photo of Valencia, Maria Magdalena Rodriguez, Valencia's mother, described her son as a kind person who worked as a barber and often gave free haircuts to family members and neighbors.
"He was so talented. And now we've been left without him. My heart has been ripped into pieces and it hurts," Rodriguez said in Spanish. "The person that deprived him of his life and left us without him, we want him to admit that he murdered him from behind."
Additionally, Valencia's brother Luis Valencia claimed that because of a false police narrative, the family was discriminated against by a Hayward funeral home.
Citing the "violent" way in which he died, the funeral home allegedly denied the family a funeral wake the day before the burial and gave them less than an hour of service immediately before he was buried, in addition to forbidding them to play music during the service, according to Luis Valencia.
When asked what may have driven Teodoro Valencia to commit the alleged robbery, Siegel said Valencia had been going through personal problems that may have put him over the edge.
"Our position is that the officer should be de-escalating the amount of force used in these situations. In particular if an officer is not under threat of serious harm, the officer should use non-deadly force," Siegel said.
Siegel is also representing the family of Yuvette Henderson, a 38-year-old woman killed last year by Emeryville police during an alleged shoplifting incident. In that federal civil rights lawsuit, Siegel and Henderson's family allege Henderson was shot in the back, also with an AR-15 rifle.
"A bullet fired from an AR-15 is very likely to kill someone. It's not going to just disable or stop someone," Siegel said. "In a basic street type interaction between an officer and someone suspected of a crime, it seems like an AR-15 is overdoing it."
Newark police Cmdr. Mike Carroll said the department had reached out to Siegel and Valencia's family and were willing to sit down with them to discuss the case and review the surveillance video. However, Carroll said he has not received a response from them.
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