An Asian American widow has taken Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies to court for the “wrongful death” of her husband.
The lawsuit, filed by 90-year-old Harue Craig in the United States District court on Monday, alleges that the deputies used excessive force and violated due process when they entered her home on September 12, 2016. The widow is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
The officers reportedly shot and killed 86-year-old retired Navy veteran Eugene Craig as he stood in his living room, with his Japanese-American wife cowering behind him, reports NBC Bay Area.
The damages complaint had nine different assertions, including violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments, lack of due process, wrongful death from negligence, and wrongful death from battery.
Named in the suit was Deputy Douglas Ulrich who was reportedly conducting a “welfare check” when he knocked on the door of the couple’s home. After receiving no response, he broke down the door and entered forcefully.
Thinking that an intruder had entered their home, Eugene armed himself with a handgun and Harue hid behind him.
When the Santa Clara county deputies saw Craig was armed with a .38 caliber revolver, Ulrich was prompted to fire several rounds at the elderly man.
Craig was hit by four bullets to the chest and pelvis, according to the autopsy results obtained by the media.
“Decedent and plaintiff were peacefully enjoying their residence, posing no risk of harm to anyone, when deputies, including defendant Ulrich , broke into their home” and “Ulrich shot decedent in his torso multiple times, resulting in death,” court documents read.
A neighbor told NBC Bay Area in an interview that the death could have been avoided had the Santa Clara county officers allowed him to help.
“All they had to do was let me in the house,” said neighbor Ronnie Roberts. “I could have got to the door. I could have called him. I could have done anything, but they wouldn’t let me do anything.”
“What was supposed to be a welfare check ironically turned into the worst case scenario where the checkers become the intruders,” family’s attorney Ara Jabagchourian told NBC Bay Area. “A home is a person’s castle. And nobody has consent to be sending other people into my home. Do everything else you have got to do before you knock that door down.”