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Parents Of Unarmed Man Fatally Shot By Santa Clara Police File Excessive Force Lawsuit

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) -- The parents of a 24-year-old unarmed man who was fatally shot by a Santa Clara police officer in March has filed an excessive force and wrongful death lawsuit against the officer and the city.

Amanda and Richard Sommers, parents of Jesus A. Geney Montes, allege in the complaint that Santa Clara police Officer Colin Stewart used excessive force and that the police department did not sufficiently train their officer to deescalate the psychiatric emergency situation.

The complaint, filed Friday, alleges that Officer Stewart shot Montes multiple times, with at least one bullet entering his body from behind.

An attorney representing the family, Matthew Haley, told CBS San Francisco that the shooting was captured on the officer's body cam, but that the department hasn't released it yet because the incident remains under investigation.

The day after the fatal shooting, the Santa Clara Police Department wrote in a statement, "According to the reporting party, the 24-year-old male subject had cut himself in the chest with a knife, was armed with a handgun and had barricaded himself in his bedroom."

But the complaint refutes that claim, alleging that the police department learned that Montes did have a knife and that he did not have a gun.

The police department did not immediately provide the emergency 911 telephone calls of the incident to CBS San Francisco, despite a request to do so.

Montes' parents called police to the house three times that day, telling the officers that they believed Montes to be suicidal and that they were hopeful officers would place their son in a psychiatric hold, according to the complaint.

But on all three visits to the home, officers only spoke to Montes through his closed bedroom door, the complaint states. Police ultimately left without attempting to place Montes in a psychiatric hold.

During one of those three visits Montes told police he had a gun, but his parents were able to confirm with police that both of the father's guns were secured and that Montes did not have access to them, the family's attorney Matthew Haley told CBS San Francisco.

"This is no doubt why the officers were comfortable in leaving the home with Jesus in the room and his parents inside the house," Haley said.

The fourth and final time that Montes' parents called for police assistance that day was after Montes stabbed himself in the chest with a small knife and then fled out his bedroom window wearing only swim trunks and no shoes, according to the complaint.

Montes had dropped the knife prior to the confrontation with police, the complaint states.

"At the time of the shooting, Jesus was not armed with anything and was wearing only a bathing suit," Haley said.

colin stewart
Santa Clara police Officer Colin Stewart (Photo: Santa Clara Police Department)

The complaint alleges Officer Stewart used excessive force, that it was a wrongful death and that the department does not adequately train its officers in deescalation techniques.

A day after the incident, the department wrote, "Officers made numerous efforts to deescalate the situation. A less-lethal electronic control device was deployed, but was ineffective. After repeated attempts to get the subject to show his hands, he refused."

The department declined to answer questions about the deescalation efforts made during the incident or their deescalation training in general.

Santa Clara police Captain Wahid Kezam told CBS San Francisco, "We have no comment on this pending litigation."

Amanda and Richard Sommers allege that Montes' death might have been avoided if the police department properly trained their officers on dealing with people who are suffering from psychiatric or psychological problems.

The complaint alleges that Santa Clara "has a widespread or longstanding custom and practice of not providing assistance to individuals suffering from psychiatric or psychological problems, which failures, together with its lack of, or inadequate, training amounts to deliberate indifference towards the constitutional rights of individuals suffering from psychiatric or psychological problems."

Just months before the fatal shooting, Officer Stewart was featured in the department's recruitment video and featured on the department's Facebook page.

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Following the fatal shooting, Officer Stewart was placed on administrative leave, but the department declined to say whether he remained on leave.

The Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney told CBS San Francisco that they could not comment on the officer involved shooting as it remains under investigation by their office.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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