Woman files lawsuit against Culver City police claiming negligence and excessive force led to husband’s death
By Sam Catanzaro
Adriana Medina has filed a lawsuit against Culver City police after her husband Guillermo Medina was killed last year by officers from the Culver City Police Department (CCPD). The lawsuit claims that CCPD officers failed to provide timely medical care which could have prevented his death, and also alleges their use of force was excessive and unconstitutional.
On December 18th at 12:30 am, police received a call about a man with schizophrenia suffering from a mental health breakdown who was acting erratically. When they arrived on the scene, he fled in his car and led police on a chase before crashing into a center median. He ran away for several hundred yards until being shot in the back by the police. According to the lawsuit, though no weapon was found at the scene and it was clear he could not possibly cause harm, officers stood by for nearly an entire minute without rendering medical aid – wasting critical time that may have saved his life.
Adriana Medina is now seeking compensatory damages from the city as well as punitive damages from both the city and its police department for wrongful death and civil rights violations.
Adriana Medina’s lawyers say witnesses reported that officers did not give any commands to Medina before they shot him. However, bodycam video footage shows officers running after Medina, identifying themselves, telling him repeatedly to stop and threatening to shoot him unless he complied with their orders.
Footage from the scene depicts an officer shouting multiple times that Medina was reaching into his waistband. He tripped but got back up and kept running, after which the same officer yelled out repeatedly that he had a “gun in hand”. Approximately two seconds later, an officer fired twice at a fleeing Medina as per the time stamp on the police bodycam footage. He dropped his cell phone as he fell to the ground. Just before the shooting transpired, one officer was captured on bodycam video saying “cellphone” – a remark which only appeared in that particular video and none of the other officers mentioned hearing during subsequent interviews.
Adriana Medina spoke with both a dispatcher and an officer who stayed with her after her husband fled the apartment. In these conversations, she described him as “dangerous” and a gang member. Further, she stated that he had threatened to kill her and even admitted to seriously considering killing himself in a shootout.
V. James DeSimone, attorney for Adriana’s suit, said his client “clearly didn’t recall everything she told the police.” He reaffirmed Adriana’s belief that Guillermo did not have a gun and should not have been killed when less lethal means could have been used instead.
“What the briefing makes clear is that Guillermo Medina did not have a gun on his person when he was shot in the back and killed and the officers observed that it was a cell phone in his hand prior to shooting him,” DeSimone said.
At a press conference, Adriana Medina said her husband “never threatened anyone with a handgun” adding that he was a “good father who cooked for our children and coached them in youth soccer”. She also reported having purposely avoided calling 911 and called the main number of the police station in hope of receiving mental health assistance because her husband had stopped taking his schizophrenia medication for several weeks.
“He was mentally ill and it wasn’t his fault. He needed help, not death,” Adriana Medina said at the press conference.
The CCPD said that investigators later found a replica handgun in Medina’s vehicle.
The state attorney general’s office is now looking further into the incident.
Guillermo Medina left behind three children, ages 11, 17 and 20.
A GoFundMe campaign has been made to help the Medina family with living and funeral expenses.