Wrongful Death Suit Filed In SJPD Shooting

SAN JOSE (BCN) — An attorney for the parents of a mentally ill man who was shot to death by San Jose police officers two years ago has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the officers and the city of San Jose.

The suit, filed on Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, was filed on behalf of Vinh Huu Pham and Lan Thi Do, parents of 27-year-old Daniel Pham, their attorney, Paul Caputo, said.

Pham was shot by Officers Brian Jeffrey and Matthew Blackerby in the backyard of his home on Branbury Way on the morning of May 10, 2009. The officers fired a total of 14 rounds at Pham after he allegedly moved towards them while holding a knife.

Twelve of the bullets hit Pham, who was pronounced dead at the scene. A grand jury declined to file charges against the officers.

Caputo, however, said, “There were some serious mistakes made by those officers that led to the tragic death of Daniel Pham.

On that day, police had responded to a report of a stabbing at the residence and upon arrival had found Pham’s brother, Brian Pham, 29, in the front lawn, bleeding from a cut across his neck.

The officers spotted Daniel Pham, the suspect, in the home’s fenced-in yard, holding the knife and smoking a cigarette. According to police reports, Jeffrey pointed his gun at Pham and ordered him to drop the knife, but Pham “glared” at Jeffrey and continued to smoke his cigarette.

The reports say that Blackerby then went around a corner of the home and used a Taser in an attempt to detain Pham. Jeffrey, not knowing Blackerby was standing outside the fence, thought his partner was in danger and jumped over the fence and again pointed his gun at Pham and demanded he drop the knife, according to police reports.

When Pham ignored repeated verbal orders to drop the knife and advanced toward the officers, both officers opened fire, police officials said.

Pham’s family has maintained police should have known Daniel Pham was mentally ill, as police had previously responded to their home to calm him down.

The shooting sparked anger among many residents, especially in the Vietnamese community, who called for police accountability in Pham’s killing.

Police reports, however, indicated the officers may not have known about Pham’s mental condition when they shot and killed him.

City Attorney Rick Doyle said it was an unfortunate situation that resulted in Pham’s death, but that he does not see liability on the part of the officers or the city.

“Any time you have a death, it’s a sad case,” Doyle said. “Police shooting cases we look at very seriously. We’ve looked at the claim and the officers were acting in a way that was reasonable under the circumstances.”

Caputo said the lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and that it would be up to jurors to determine a fair resolution.

“It certainly is not about the money,” Caputo said. “It’s about seeking justice and finding out how and why their son was taken from them.”

The city has 30 days to respond to the complaint before commencing with a trial, Caputo said.

He said the original claim was filed in October 2009, but that it was ignored by the city.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

  • DaPoPoMan

    The family knows how and why their son was taken. He used a knife to attack his brother, which prompted the 9-1-1 call. When the police arrived he was still armed with the knife and did not follow their commands. Sorry! Yes, he was mentally ill and as has been evidenced in case after case, people who are mentally ill sometimes are also violent and it requires significant force to stop them. Look at the shooting several days ago, with the suspect’s mommy decrying the police for defending themselves after the suspect fired on them. There will be a wrongful death suit out of that case as well. Sorry, but when you call 9-1-1 you may not like the resolution.

  • Scott

    Okay, so if you are mentally ill, you get to do what? Stab your brother, threaten to do the same to police and expect them to just talk you down because that is what they did the last time they responded to the home? Did he try to kill someone the last time they were there? More and more, the police are expected to deal with more and more people like this and always conclude with peaceful endings. This is not the way real life and death goes! I listen to people say things like: “Couldn’t they just Tase’em or shoot’em in the leg?” NO! Cops are not trained to shoot people in the leg or hand etc… That is a crazy and unsafe notion and is one of those TV show things… The tasser is NOT reliable upon crazed persons, as their state of mind/chemical imbalance can actually block the tasser’s electrical pulse from reaching pain recpectors. When someone has just attacked another with a deadly weapon and now comes after you with that weapon, would you want to have the same weapon as he or would you like to have the advantage? Those police officers did the right thing. People who Monday Morning things with hours and days of thought-up criticism have obviously never been in the split second, life or death situation. I’m glad those critics don’t patrol our streets!!! Truly, this is a tragedy for all. However, I was there the day San Jose PD lost two police officers because a known mentally ill person could not be talked down from his crazy place. I’m glad the police officers in this incident made it home safe to their families. Officer Simpson and Officer Silva did not. Shame on the lawyers (you make me sick) who think they need to now punish them for doing the right thing.

  • http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/12/02/south-bay-police-to-be-trained-in-defusing-situations-with-the-mentally-ill/ South Bay Police To Be Trained In Defusing Situations With The Mentally Ill « CBS San Francisco

    […] San Jose Police Department faced a wrongful death lawsuit after the 2009 fatal shooting of Daniel Pham in the family’s backyard. The San Francisco Police Department issued new guidelines on dealing […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Guide To The Holidays
Shine A Light On The Holiday Season With ‘Giving Tuesday’

Listen Live