Local News

Tuesday, Aug 16 2011 02:53 PM

Lawsuit filed on behalf of David Lee Turner's family

BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

In a long-expected move, attorneys for the family of David Lee Turner filed a civil rights lawsuit against Kern County on Tuesday demanding a jury trial for alleged civil rights violations in a sheriff's deputy's fatal shooting of Turner.

The lawsuit names the county, Sheriff Donny Youngblood and deputies Wesley Kraft and Aaron Nadal as defendants. It states five civil rights violations were committed against Turner, including unreasonable search, unreasonable use of nonlethal force and unreasonable use of lethal force.

Attorney Gerson Horn said a separate claim in connection with the shooting was being sent to the county Tuesday afternoon. After receiving it, the county will have 30 days to accept or reject the claim.

County counsel Theresa Goldner could not be reached for comment. Youngblood said he could not comment on the litigation, and any comment would have to come from the county counsel's office.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, states that the county, including Youngblood and other policymakers, have direct knowledge that Turner's detention and shooting were not justified, but have still approved of the deputies' behavior. By doing so, the county and sheriff's department "have ratified the unconstitutional acts of Deputy Aaron Nadal and Deputy Wesley Kraft," the lawsuit states.

It goes on to state that the deputies "acted outside the scope of their jurisdiction and without authorization of law, acted willfully, maliciously, knowingly, with reckless disregard and callous indifference to the known consequences of their acts and omissions, and purposefully with the intent to deprive David Lee Turner, Sr., of his federally protected rights and privileges. ..."

Punitive and exemplary damages are being asked against the defendants, in an amount to be determined at trial.

Turner, 56, was shot early July 10 at the Fastrip on Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue. Deputies had responded to the store for reports of juveniles asking adults to buy alcohol for them, deputies have said.

Deputies had detained Turner at the scene and searched him, deputies have said. Turner, a former NFL player, at first complied, but became increasingly agitated, deputies have said. Turner stopped complying and walked away from the deputies. A deputy, trying to stop Turner, struck him in the leg with a baton and about the same time Turner swung but didn't connect with the deputy, the sheriff's department reported.

Turner then raised a bag he was carrying that contained two 24-ounce cans of beer and swung it down on Nadal's head, deputies have said. Nadal went into a defensive position and Turner again began raising the bag to strike him.

Deputy Kraft pulled his gun and fired twice, hitting Turner. Turner was taken to Kern Medical Center and died about two hours later.

The shooting was determined to be within department policy.

Toxicology studies have determined Turner had both methamphetamine and alcohol in his body. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to his abdomen, the coroner's office reported.

Attorneys for Turner's family have long said there is video evidence of Turner's shooting, but sheriff's department officials have said they have examined all of the Fastrip surveillance videos and could find no images of the actual shooting. Youngblood has repeatedly asked that, if such a video exists, someone provide it to the sheriff's department.

Turner attended Buttonwillow Elementary School, Shafter High School, Bakersfield College and San Diego State University. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in 1978, and he played for them until 1980.

Since his playing days, Turner had been arrested numerous times. He had pleaded no contest to receiving stolen property, felony possession of cocaine and a number of misdemeanor crimes, according to Kern County Superior Court records.

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