SAN DIEGO — About a dozen people gathered in front of San Diego police headquarters Tuesday morning to denounce a fatal Gaslamp Quarter shooting by police and announce the filing of a wrongful death claim against the city and the officers involved.
Protestors with United Against Police Terror San Diego and representatives of a law firm rallied for Lamontez Jones, 39, who was shot several times by San Diego police motorcycle Officers Scott Thompson and Gregory Lindstrom in a confrontation in the middle of Sixth Avenue at F Street on Oct. 20.
Police said Jones aimed a replica handgun at the officers, and after being shot he fell to the pavement and aimed the gun at them again, prompting them to fire again. He died at a hospital.
The officers did not turn on their body-worn cameras before the shooting. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman defended their oversight, saying events unfolded too swiftly and the officers had to focus on safety for themselves and the public first.
The District Attorney’s Office found the shooting legally justified, as both officers believed the handgun Jones aimed at Thompson was real and that he was about to fire it at the officer. Thompson fired two rounds at Jones and Lindstrom fired seven rounds.
The claim, a legal step required before filing a lawsuit against the government, was filed by the Los Angeles law firm of James P. Segall-Gutierrez on behalf of Jones’ mother, Victoria Jones, of Virginia. It alleges wrongful death, negligence, infliction of emotional distress and other violations by the city, the Police Department and the two officers. The amount of damages was not specified, but the claim said “the totals will exceed several million dollars.”
“I would just like to know what initiated them to go after my son,” Victoria Jones said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “My biggest concern is, they didn’t have their body cameras (turned) on. … They want me to accept what they want to tell me.”
She said an officer’s first instinct when contacting the public or getting out of a patrol car should be to activate the camera, and that police agencies should use technology that turns them on automatically.
San Diego police have given her reports on the shooting, and she said they told her they pulled security video from businesses overlooking the spot where it happened.
“They told me the only way I could see them is if I hire a lawyer and file a complaint. So that’s what I’m doing,” she said.
She said a number of witnesses sent her emails about the encounter between her son and police, and some said officers knew before the shooting that Jones’ gun was not real. Police said the officers saw Jones run into traffic, refusing to stop and identify himself, and they were following him as he ran down the street. They said he turned toward Thompson suddenly with a handgun apparently pulled from his backpack.
“I know my son pulled out a fake gun, and he answered for that,” his mother said. She said she now wants the officers to answer for their actions.
She said he served time after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of his roommate in Virginia, but said he acted in self-defense and was pressured into accepting a plea deal. San Diego police said Jones was wanted on a Virginia warrant for robbery at the time of his death.