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Napa To Pay $700K To Family Of Man Killed By Police In Shooting

NAPA (CBS SF) -- The city of Napa and the family of a man who was fatally shot by Napa police in 2010 have settled a wrongful death lawsuit, both parties to the suit announced Monday.

Under the settlement, the city will pay the wife and daughter of Richard Poccia $700,000 but will not admit liability regarding the shooting death of Poccia outside of his Napa home on Nov. 28, 2010.

The civil suit in federal court was scheduled for trial this month.

Two Napa police officers shot Poccia, 60, with a Taser and a rifle outside of his home at 1405 Meek Ave. after he withdrew a knife from his waistband, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Office, which investigated the shooting. Poccia died of a gunshot wound to the head.

An officer, Nicholas Dalessi, believed Poccia took a gun out of his waistband and that he posed a serious threat of death or great bodily harm, said Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, who reviewed the incident and concluded the officers acted in self-defense.

Before the shooting, Poccia's wife Samanda Dorger and her family and friends told police Poccia was alone in the home, had been in psychiatric distress for two days and his mental state was deteriorating, Lieberstein said.

Police also were told Poccia, an unemployed nurse, was drinking heavily, owned at least 13 firearms, had fired a shot through a wall and was suicidal, Lieberstein said.

A physician friend who visited Poccia earlier on Nov. 28 told police Poccia said he would confront police if they came to his home and that he, the officers or both would die, Lieberstein said.

Poccia's health care provider told police Poccia might be suffering from withdrawal from Klonopin, a prescription drug for seizure and panic disorders, Lieberstein said.

Poccia's family filed a wrongful death civil suit, claiming Poccia was experiencing severe depression and had been shot without provocation after he agreed to come outside his home to speak to police at their request, according to a statement by Napa city officials and Poccia's survivors.

The statement also mentions the physical evidence established Poccia was not shot while handcuffed or from behind.

"Mr. Poccia's death was tragic, and the city and its Police Department deeply regret the loss of life," the statement says.

The Poccia family's attorney Khaldoun Baghdadi said the family settled the case largely because the settlement requires the Police Department to train police to respond to incidents involving mentally ill people under distress.

"No jury would order that and the judge wouldn't allow that in our claim. You can't get a judge to order a Police Department to do that," Baghdadi said.

The city of Napa has been training all of its police officers in crisis intervention that will be completed this year, according to the statement.

The training includes an overview of mental illness as well as communication skills and other tactics and strategies to safely and effectively de-escalate individuals who have a mental illness or are in crisis, according to the joint statement.

"All parties join in urging those struggling with mental illness or addiction, or whose friends or family members are struggling, to get help promptly," according to the statement.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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