Lawsuit Filed in Vista, CA Police Death

Lawsuit Filed in Vista, CA Police Death

A lawsuit has been filed in US District Court in San Diego that could have ramifications in the way police are trained nationwide .

The federal wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages in the shooting death of a young man in Vista, CA on August 1, 2005. Jesus Eduardo Manzo, 23, wound up being the third man of Latino descent to die in separate police shooting incidents in a five-day time span. Vista has a very large Latino population, though its police force does not racially represent that.

Groups around San Diego County have called on the Sheriff's Department to review the way they train their officers in situations where they may have to use force. A review is currently in its preliminary stages and will take place sometime this summer, according to Assistant sheriff Earl Wentworth.

The shootings sparked protests by a number of people and groups, who called for an independent review of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department use-of-force policies and procedures.

Assistant sheriff Earl Wentworth said last week that bids are being prepared for a review that might start by midyear. The department investigations into the three fatal shootings may go to the District Attorney's office next month for review, sheriff's homicide officials said.

The federal wrongful death lawsuit was brought on behalf of the victim's mother, Maria Maldinado, his 8-month-old daughter, and his estate. The suit alleges use of excessive force, failure to train, supervise or discipline deputies, battery, and negligence . The suit also names the following defendants: San Diego County, Captain Rob Ahern of the Vista Sheriff Station, Deputy Lewis Schott - the man who killed Manzo, and some 100 others.

The lawsuit alleges that Ahern promoted racial discrimination in the city's police tactics and that police often targeted persons of Latino descent. The lawsuit also wants to change the way that officers are trained in the County. Currently there is very little training for alternative means of subduing suspects other than using a gun .

Deputy Schott fired at Manzo because the officer thought the man was reaching for a gun. Manzo, a convicted car thief, did not have a gun or any other weapon on him, however.

The lawsuit seeks federal status because it claims that it needs an independent investigation, rather than one brought on by San Diego County itself.

The case could have ramifications around the country for potential police brutality cases or other wrongful death claims and the way they are handled and tried.

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