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.”

–> Continue reading.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3690 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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  • Don Stine III

    Who added that gay ass music?Can’t hear the end of what happened. Cops are a menace.

  • hog

    Fuck cops kill the pigs all of em bastards r crooked fu ks

    • Gordon Waite

      Let’s turn your statement around on you and see how it sounds. Fuck hog, kill hog all of em bastards r crooked fu ks. Not only are you illiterate, I’m guessing your a low brow high school drop out. Gauging all police based on the actions of a few is like saying all people from south of the border are MS 13 gang members. Grow up and take a remedial English course.

      • Missy Ledbetter

        you really didn’t have anything better to do than to troll hog. every cop’s a criminal. and grammar Nazis can’t get laid.

        • lizard

          He’ll get laid before you do(;

      • John Vairo

        GORDON WAITE, see if you can understand this, GO FUCK YERSELF, FUCK ALL PIGS

        • lizard

          Well we should have all people named John murdered. Sound familiar?

          • Ceri

            No, lizard, it does not sound familiar. Having the name John does not make you part of a vicious gang that murders innocent people, breaks into houses, kill dogs, bullies everyone, and acts as thugs robbing the entire populace for the benefit of the state. Being a cop does.See the difference there, kiddo?

          • lizard

            Sounds like the same thing xD

  • AS1124

    and this is why you do NOT call police on your mentally ill family member. Maybe people should just get their own tranquilizer darts and stun guns . At least they won’t shoot their family member while trying to stop their crazy behavior

    • richardruscoe

      I agree. Shooting us is legal. Restraining our own is against the law.

    • Christopher John Hardock

      Depends on where you live, Thankfully up in Americas’s Hat, if a cop did this he’d be in for murder.

  • R Selz

    AS1124 has the right idea. I mean cripes just get a stun gun / taser, and mix your own cocktail of sedatives for when they get rowdy. Beats calling the cops who fear for their lives w/ every hangnail and reach right for the gun first off….

  • yooo

    Fuck her brother its his fault shes dead, i will kill a pig before they try to kill me

    • JoHu

      if you read the article you will know he called the ambulance, but the ambulance waited down the street, since their protocol is to not approach people with weapons. So no, it’s the cops fault.

  • NellineBarrow

    Cops are out of control. If they don’t sort their funk out, the public is gonna call for a free for all.

    • R Selz

      +NellineBarrow absolutely The Purge FTMFW

  • James


  • Aliel The Heretic

    This just goes to show, don’t call the police when you are having a mental health issue with a family member.

    Call friends and family members in the area, bring a set of handcuffs, detain that family member (citizen arrest for mental health issues is legal), and bring that family member to a mental health facility.

    NEVER call the police. They are lazy, will not put themselves in danger, and will KILL your loved ones first chance they get.

    • Dave Carter

      This goes to show that there are fewer and fewer situations that aren’t made worse by calling the police.

  • Jim Chavez

    who is “District Attorney Steve Wagstaff” to determine anything? that is for a court to decide.

  • ldeuel

    The police get away with murder and they know that 9 times out of 10 a judge will side with them. Don’t call the police ever if you do not have to.

  • stu

    This is how the Nazi butchers were trained