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Violent addict — or involved father? Opposite portraits of man killed by Fresno police

Fresno police shot and killed Casimero Casillas on Sept. 7, 2015, after he evaded a traffic stop for a seat belt violation. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, a judge ruled that Casillas’ family can move forward with its civil rights lawsuit that accuses the Fresno Police Department of excessive force. The trial began Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.
Fresno police shot and killed Casimero Casillas on Sept. 7, 2015, after he evaded a traffic stop for a seat belt violation. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, a judge ruled that Casillas’ family can move forward with its civil rights lawsuit that accuses the Fresno Police Department of excessive force. The trial began Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Fresno Police Department

A 45-year-old man fatally shot by Fresno police in 2015 was described in court testimony Thursday as a troubled person who had a history of drug addiction, drunk driving and violent behavior.

But three of his children, who also testified, drew a different picture of their father — saying they will miss him and have struggled with his loss.

The family of Casimero “Shane” Casillas is suing the city over his death, alleging Fresno police officer Trevor Shipman violated his civil rights by using excessive force when he confronted Casillas on Sept. 7, 2015.

Shipman shot Casillas three times and he later died of his injuries.

During this week’s trial in U.S. District Court, Shipman, now a deputy with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, testified he shot Casillas because he was coming at him with a 2-foot long metal pipe.

Fresno County’s chief forensic pathologist Dr. Venu Gopal testified that on the day Casillas was killed, he had a “significant” level of methamphetamine in his system and slightly less than the legal limit of alcohol in his blood stream.

Gopal explained while the affects of methamphetamine differ depending on the person, it can impact their ability to comprehend pain.

Bruce Praet, the attorney representing the city of Fresno, questioned Casillas’ ex-wife Beatriz Catano about her former husband’s history of drinking and drug taking.

He brought up sworn statements she made during their divorce in 2007. One of the statements described Casillas as being “violent when loaded” and that another time he “punched her in the face.”

Catano divorced Casillas after a 10-month marriage, but reconnected with him years later. Cantano said her children have received grief therapy.

Some of those children who testified Thursday painted a different picture of their father.

Angel Casillas, 13, said he missed playing pool with Casillas or going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When asked by attorney Dale Galipo what he missed the most about his father, he said: “He was funny and he liked to hug and kiss us.”

The family’s lawsuit seeks undetermined damages from the city for the death of Casillas, a Table Mountain Indian tribe member.

Casillas was shot inside an east-central Fresno home he helped purchase for a friend. The day of the shooting, Casillas, who also lived in a small apartment on the property, had been driving with a friend when police noticed his passenger didn’t have his seat belt on.

Police tried to stop his vehicle, but Casillas led officers on a short chase that ended at the home. Casillas, who was carrying a metal pipe, confronted Shipman who shot him three times.

Jurors will ultimately have to decide whether Shipman used lethal force appropriately — or overreacted.

Under questioning by the family’s attorney Dale Galipo, Shipman testified this week that he shouted to Casillas to “stop, stop get on the ground” almost simultaneously to firing his .40 caliber Beretta.

But William Harmening, an expert in excessive force called by the plaintiff to testify Thursday, said the officer’s behavior was not an appropriate use of deadly force.

“No police training says to give commands while you are shooting,” Harmening said.

Closing arguments in the civil trial could come as early as Friday.

A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.
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