The attorney representing the mother of Dylan Noble, who was fatally shot by Fresno police after a traffic stop in June, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city that contends two officers used excessive force when they shot the 19-year-old as he lay wounded.
Fresno attorney Stuart Chandler also said Noble would still be alive if the officers had used a stun gun, pepper spray, beanbag shotgun or police dog to apprehended him.
During a nearly hourlong news conference Thursday, Chandler criticized the Fresno Police Department by saying officers lacked training when dealing with an impaired individual such as Noble. He also said police Chief Jerry Dyer misled the public when he told reporters that it was against department policy to use a police dog to apprehend an armed subject.
And he showed a video re-creation that he said shows officers could have apprehended Noble by deploying a police dog that was on the scene.
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It is important to know that animation is created in a sterile environment within a computer lab with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and the absence of stress.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer
“I have a strong conviction that what happened, should not have happened,” Chandler said.
To prove his point, Chandler cited three examples:
▪ He showed reporters a copy of the department’s policy regarding the deployment of a police dog. The policy states that a police dog can be deployed if an officer or the public is in danger or about to be harmed.
▪ Fresno police officers used a police dog to apprehended an armed subject July 14, Chandler said, ending a 10-hour standoff at a minimarket on Blackstone Avenue in central Fresno.
▪ In Noble’s case, the police dog was at the scene at least a minute before he was fatally wounded. Chandler also said an officer had ordered for the dog to be released before Noble was shot, but the dog never got out of the patrol car.
But when things happen and something goes wrong, you have to step up and take a stand.
Fresno attorney Stuart Chandler
The lawsuit identifies Raymond Camacho and Robert Chavez as the officers who shot Noble. Chandler said Camacho used a handgun to shoot Noble three times, including one time while he lay wounded. Chavez used a shotgun to shoot Noble as he laid on the ground, Chandler said.
The lawyer told reporters that every shot constitutes excessive force. In addition, the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Fresno Superior Court, accuses the officers and police department of negligence, conspiracy, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks unspecified damages.
Dyer disagrees with attorney’s interpretation
Dyer said Thursday that his department is expediting the criminal investigation and he anticipates it being completed prior to the end of September. “There has not been a finding rendered yet by the district attorney, nor has the internal affairs investigation been completed to determine whether policy violations occurred,” the chief said.
Dyer said Chandler did not correctly interpret the policy.
“The procedure he referred to was quoting a section titled ‘Canine Search Considerations’ which provides four criteria to be considered when using the canine for a ‘search of a suspect,’” Dyer said. “This covers situations when the suspect is hiding and officers are attempting to locate the suspect, not a dynamic situation, which was the case with Mr. Noble.”
Regarding Chandler’s interpretation of the department policy regarding police dogs, Dyer said the procedure states that the dog handler will have the ultimate authority whether or not to deploy the dog. “There are a number of reasons for this being in the procedure to include the canine handlers’ intimate knowledge of their individual canine’s capabilities,” Dyer said.
Dyer has said that officers believed Noble was armed and was about to shoot them. But officers later learned that Noble was unarmed.
But as late as early August, the chief has had questions as to whether the last two rounds fired by officers were necessary, adding that he has not made a decision yet whether the shooting was justified.
The shooting took place June 25 in the parking lot of a Chevron station at Shields and Armstrong avenues in southeast Fresno. Police were responding to a report of a man with a rifle walking in the area when Noble’s pickup squealed its tires and sped from near Sunnyside Avenue onto Shields Avenue.
Camacho and Chavez followed the truck to the gas station, according to police body camera video. With their guns drawn, they repeatedly ordered Noble to show his hands and get on the ground. When he approached them with one hand hidden behind his back, Camacho fired two shots from his handgun, and Noble then dropped to the ground.
Steve Wright, an assistant district attorney, said the office is still waiting for the police investigation to be completed.
Noble reached toward his waistband as officers including Camacho and Chavez continued ordering him to show his hands. When he didn’t, Camacho fired a third round. Chavez fired the final round with his shotgun. No gun was found on Noble’s body or in his pickup.
In addition to the Fresno Police Department investigating the shooting, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and FBI are conducting separate investigations.
On Aug. 3, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said a toxicology report showed that Noble had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, above the state’s legal driving limit of 0.08. The report also found trace amounts of the chemical benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.
Chandler filed the lawsuit on behalf of Veronica Nelson after he said the city of Fresno sent him a letter over the weekend that rejected his claim for damages. Warren Paboojian, who represents Dylan’s father, Darren Noble, said Thursday he also received a rejection letter from the city and plans to file a lawsuit against police within two weeks.
Attorney alleges smear campaign
At his news conference inside a north Fresno high-rise, Chandler contended that police and the Sheriff’s Office have released tidbits of information and withheld public records in order to smear Noble by pointing out he was intoxicated and what he did wrong when police confronted him.
Chandler said Thursday that instead of shooting Noble, officers should have de-escalated the situation.
Chandler showed the police documents regarding the policy involving police dogs. He also had a tape recording of Dyer talking at a July news conference about when a police dog can be deployed. In addition, Chandler played a bystander’s video of the shooting in which a police dog is heard barking before Noble is shot while lying wounded. Chandler also played the police videos from the body cameras worn by Camacho and Chavez. In the video, a police officer orders the dog to be released 20 seconds before Noble is shot.
Chandler said his evidence clearly shows that Dyer hasn’t been forthright in discussing the shooting and his officers had other less-lethal options in dealing with Noble.
“I’m a very conservative person and pro-law enforcement and pro-Fresno,” Chandler told reporters. “I’m not here today to put down law enforcement.”
But “when things happen and something goes wrong, you have to step up and take a stand,” he said.
Chandler said he has hired several former law enforcement officials to investigate the killing and to work with a video production team to create a scenario that shows Fresno police officers using a police dog to apprehend Noble. The video production company is the same one used by the city when it defends police in court cases, Chandler said.
Once Noble was pulled over, Chandler said, the officers should have taken a position of safety by or behind their patrol cars. Instead, the officers, with their handguns drawn, took a step toward Noble, he said.
Differing viewpoints on video re-creation
The video re-creation shows Noble by his truck, acting erratically. The officers stand near their patrol cars with their guns drawn. Once the officer gives the order to release the dog, the animal darts toward Noble and within seconds he is taken to the ground. The officers then take Noble into custody.
“It’s that easy,” Chandler said, noting that a police dog could run about 30 mph and could have apprehended Noble within two to three seconds.
Dyer criticized Chandler’s video animation, saying the purpose was “to show a desired outcome.”
“It is important to know that animation is created in a sterile environment within a computer lab with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and the absence of stress. Officers do not have this perfect-world environment to make decisions within,” Dyer said.