Jury says Kern County Sheriff's Deputies Caused Death- $4.5 Million Awarded to Family of Latino Man Tased 29 times and Beaten to Death by Officers

From [HERE] The family of a Rosamond man, who died in the custody of the Sheriff's Department two years ago, has been awarded $4.5 million. A jury found Tuesday that the defendants acted negligently, causing the death of Jose Lucero and serious emotional distress to his parents, Florencio and Lilia, who witnessed the confrontation. The deputies, Daniel Willis, Ryan Greer, Angelos Gonzalez and Jonathan Juden, are still employed with the sheriff's department. The deputies did not face criminal charges in the death.

Attorney Michael Curls, who represents the Lucero family, says Jose Lucero suffered from mental illness and was simply hallucinating. "The evidence that we believe which prevailed, is that once he ran behind his father and his father moved, then one of the officers, two of the officers shot him with tasers and he went to the ground. Then the officers proceeded to beat him for numerous times and they tased him numerous times to the point where he basically died," said Curls. During the incident, deputies used a Taser on Lucero 29 times.

On Dec. 18, 2010, sheriff's deputies went to Lucero's home because he had been repeatedly making calls to 911, saying that a friend in Lancaster was being assaulted and murdered, said Los Angeles attorney Michael Curls, who represented the Luceros.

The confrontation started with three deputies against Lucero, but a fourth arrived later. The deputies shocked Lucero with a Taser about 29 times, Curls said. The situation was also exacerbated when one of the deputies used pepper spray in the closed environment of the home, causing the deputies to suffer the pepper spray's symptoms, as well. The incident lasted about six minutes.

To make matters worse, Curls said, Lucero's parents were in the room, watching the entire episode unfold.

"I can't imagine a situation more painful that watching your son get beaten to death right before your eyes two weeks before Christmas and have to live in the same home for years after," Curls said.

But the parents were repeatedly told to leave the home and kept coming back to see what was happening, said Chief Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations. That makes them at least partially responsible for any emotional distress, he said.

Lucero had mental health issues and was a recovering drug addict, Curls said. Prior to that day, he had been recovering well, Curls said. But, during Lucero's autopsy, the coroner's officer found methamphetamine in his system.

Lucero's official cause of death was cardiac arrest following police restraint in association with methamphetamine intoxication, the coroner's office reported in March 2011.

Law enforcement was justified in going to Lucero's house after the repeated and delusional 911 calls, Curls said. But after they arrived, the deputies' conduct quickly became unreasonable, he added.

"It was well established by law enforcement that he was having a mental health episode and should have been dealt with as a medical emergency," Curls said.

That Lucero was also on meth does not matter, Curls said. Whether the episode was a result of prior mental health issues or drugs, he should have been dealt with the same way, Curls said.