Police Shoot Unarmed Man to Death Because “Seatbelt Wasn’t On”

Helen Christophi | Courthouse News Service


FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — Fresno police shot an unarmed man to death in his home after chasing him there — because a passenger in his car wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, the man’s wife and daughter say in a federal lawsuit.

According to the bizarre federal lawsuit, officers “with lights flashing and sirens blaring … laying down … spikes across the roadway … even request(ed) a helicopter to chase a suspect only because his passenger was allegedly not wearing a seat belt.”

“We intend to hold the city of Fresno and the police department accountable for the tragic loss of a husband and father,” the family’s attorney William Schmidt said in an email Wednesday.

The family says Fresno police Officer Trevor Shipman shot Casimero Casillas to death on Sept. 7, 2015, after the pointless chase, “despite a supervisor ordering the field officers to stand down since there had been no violation of the law to warrant such tactics.”

The family does not explain, in the July 19 lawsuit, why Casillas did not pull over for police who tried to stop him “for an alleged seatbelt violation by his adult passenger.”

They say he drove, “largely following traffic laws,” to the home of friends with whom he lived.

“Upon arrival at home, Casimero Casillas exited his vehicle, went through the garage into his residence,” the complaint states. “After slight deliberation, the officers, without a warrant, entered, immediately made contact with Casimero. Officer Shipman then immediately shot him several times.”

Shipman has not been disciplined for the killing, the family says. They say it’s not the first time Fresno police officers needlessly killed a civilian, and that the city and its police department have a policy of “conditioning and encouraging” officers, including Shipman, to use deadly force.

In 2011, a federal jury found that the police department had a practice of using unjustified excessive force against the community. According to a recent study cited by the plaintiffs, Fresno officers have unjustifiably shot 22 people in the past decade.

“This is another tragic example in the long history of the use of excessive and deadly force by the Fresno Police Department,” attorney Schmidt said.

The family seek punitive damages for conspiracy, wrongful death, battery, negligence and other charges.

The city and its police department did not immediately return requests for comment Wednesday morning.

Casillas was 45. The Fresno Bee reported the day after the killing that it was the third shooting in less than a week involving a Fresno police officer. The two other victims were critically wounded.


A Fresno sheriff’s officer told the Bee that Casillas tried to attack a police officer with a metal pipe, and the officer “feared for his life,” so he shot him.

Published by Courthouse News Service.