by: Aaron Leaf
On September 17, 2006, San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputies Mike King and Sue Geer responded to a noise complaint at the Hayes residence. When they arrived, they were met outside by the girlfriend of Shane Hayes who told the deputies that Shane had attempted to harm himself in the past and was worried about him. Without question, or knowing of Shane’s past history of alcohol abuse and depression, deputies rushed in the house where they found Shane in the kitchen. One of the deputies ordered Hayes to show his hands for his right hand was behind his back. In a non threatening manner, Hayes took a step towards the deputies while raising both hands to shoulder level revealing a knife pointed tip down in his right hand. The deputies, who were standing about six to eight feet away from Hayes, drew their weapons and within “2 seconds” as deputies stated, immediately opened fire, hitting Hayes 3 times, killing him.
“Although Hayes was walking towards the deputies, he was not charging them, and had not been ordered to stop,” the court said. “He had committed no crime and had followed all orders from the deputies at the time he was shot.”
Shane’s daughter Chelsey , at only 13 years old, filed an action in federal district court, alleging claims under both state and federal law against the deputies, the county, and other jurisdictions. Chelsey alleged the deputies were negligent in failing to properly assess the situation before entering the house. She contended the deputies created the situation which led to Hayes’s death by confronting him without first determining, among other things; his level of intoxication, the potential need for non-lethal force to subdue him, or whether a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) should be called in.
The district court granted summary judgment to all claims. Chelsey appealed.
The court of appeals pointed to what they saw as a lack of uniformity in California negligence law and certified to the California Supreme Court the following question: whether, under California law, sheriff’s deputies owe a duty of care to a suicidal person when preparing, approaching, and performing a welfare check on him.
The California Supreme Court granted the request for certification, holding that the deputies’ tactical conduct and decisions leading up to their use of deadly force had to be considered, as part of the totality of circumstances, in determining whether the use of deadly force was reasonable.
“The two San Diego County Sheriffs Deputies chose to end Shane’s life with deadly force and left the taser guns in the patrol cars only after a short time in the residence. Shane’s sober mind wanted to live, not die. He wanted to continue to be a father to his daughter, a son, uncle, and a brother. He needed help and the police were called for that reason, not to take his life. They didn’t give him a chance. We know he was not threatening anyone else but himself and never had threatened anyone else prior. He didn’t deserve to be shot at 5 times for being an alcoholic and being depressed. Shane needed help.” wrote Kristopher R. Hayes (Shane’s brother) in a letter sent to San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
United Against Police Terror – San Diego condemns all acts of violence and the senseless killings of our family members and all members of the community by Law Enforcement. We demand that Deputies Mike King and Sue Geer and the San Diego Sheriffs Department be held accountable for their actions in the murder of Shane Anthony Hayes. We unite in support of the Hayes family in their quest for answers, and their fight for justice.
Appeal trial will begin July 2014 in San Diego. Check back here for updates.