Cop Claims He “Feared for His Life” When He Fatally Shot Mentally Ill Child: Devastated Parents File Lawsuit

Erin Ivie | Contra Costa Times

HALF MOON BAY — The family of a schizophrenic teenage girl fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in Half Moon Bay filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against San Mateo County, seeking various damages for excessive force and unreasonable due process, court documents reveal.

Last month, District Attorney Steve Wagstaff concluded Deputy Menh Trieu was justified when he shot and killed Yanira Serrano-Garcia on June 3, saying he did so in defense of his own life.




But the family’s lawsuit filed Tuesday in Superior Court alleges Trieu, a nine-year veteran of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, had no justification for shooting the teen, and that he acted recklessly when he fired one shot into her chest.

Trieu, who officials said had not undergone a 40-hour state-certified curriculum focusing on mental illness, shot and killed Serrano-Garcia down the street from her home in the Moonridge Housing Complex.

Though Trieu will not face any criminal charges because Wagstaffe determined his actions were in line with officer safety standards, the family’s complaint countered he did not adhere to protocol when he got out of his car without waiting for other officers to arrive.

The complaint also disputed Wagstaffe’s labeling of the weapon Serrano-Garcia raised over her head as a “10½-inch kitchen knife,” saying that it was actually a much-smaller paring knife the teen had been using to cut fruit, a snack she prepared after every time she took her medication, the family’s attorney said.

The family also criticized the notion she moved “incredibly quickly,” as Wagstaffe noted in August.

RELATED: Parents Devastated After Police Say “We Don’t Have Time for This” and Murder Their Mentally Ill Child

“She was so obese and crippled in one leg that it defies anyones imagination that the sheriff would be afraid for his life,” attorney Jonathan Melrod said. “It’s just an absurdity.”

He added, “Had he followed their protocol, there would have been no escalation..”

The family has from the beginning criticized the sheriff’s office medical response as “faulty.”

The family’s attorneys alleged the responding authorities “had to have known her,” since a sheriff’s substation is mere yards from the Serrano-Garcia family home.

cop kills schizophrenic teen girl

The complaint says the teen’s brother, Tony Serrano-Garcia, asked dispatchers for a medical response, and that he said “this is not really an emergency, I’m calling because my sister has schizophrenia.”

According to Wagstaffe, an ambulance did respond, but the unarmed responders waited at the end of the street as is protocol when an armed subject is involved.

RELATED: Young Boy Shot to Death by Cop Moments After Sitting Down to Watch Movie in His Home

Melrod called Wagstaffe’s characterization of the teen as violent was “whitewashing,” and that the girl’s brother had told dispatchers, “She’s not violent, she’s just yelling.”

“It was really a distortion and mischaracterization of the 911 call,” Melrod said. “It’s blaming the victim instead of the officer who committed the violent act.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5648 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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