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A Fresno cop killed a pipe-wielding man. Was it excessive force? It’s now in jury’s hands

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

After three days of testimony and nearly a dozen witnesses, an eight-member jury in U.S. District Court must now decide whether former Fresno police officer Trevor Shipman used excessive force when he shot and killed 45-year-old Casimero “Shane” Casillas.

Casillas’ family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Fresno alleging his death was the result of negligence when he was fatally wounded by Shipman on Sept. 7, 2015, after trying to elude police.

Closing arguments were presented Friday from attorneys representing the city and Casillas’ estate. The family is being represented by William Schmidt of Fresno and Dale Galipo of Southern California.

Bruce Praet, the attorney representing the city of Fresno, told the six-woman, two-man jury that while the shooting was tragic, Shipman’s use of deadly force was justified, given that Casillas was approaching him with a 2-foot metal pipe, raised about chest high.

As Casillas closed his distance, Shipman fired three shots from his .40 caliber Beretta, striking him in the abdomen, leg and back. Casillas later died of his injuries at Community Regional Medical Center.

shipman file.JPG
In January 2007 Fresno police officer Trevor Shipman, center, was one of two officers (along with Daniel Messick, left) honored by the city at a ceremony at City Hall. Chief Jerry Dyer, right, chats with the officers, who were ambushed by a gunman while responding to a call in October 2006. Fresno Bee file

At issue during the trial was whether Shipman had time to draw his Taser to try and stop Casillas. An expert for the defense said he did not, while a expert for the family said he did.

Praet said if anything, Shipman waited too long before firing his gun. He said Casillas’ actions gave the officer the only viable option. Praet also reminded the jury that Shipman was trying to protect his own life.

“Is a police officer’s life less important?” he asked. “Does he deserve to have his head cracked open with a pipe?”

Praet also reminded the jury of Casillas’ troubles with alcohol, his drug use, and that his relationship with his wife was strained at best.

Praet alleged that at the time of the shooting, Casillas had a girlfriend and didn’t spend much time with his wife or his five children.

“They did not have a loving marriage but she wants you to give her money,” he said.

The normally soft-spoken Galipo delivered a stern rebuttal to Praet’s closing arguments. Galipo urged the jury to use their common sense in looking at the facts. He said the defense did not prove that two nearby officers heard Shipman shout loud commands for Casillas to stop.

“They are doing everything they can to explain why no one heard Shipman say, ‘Stop, stop, get on the ground,’” he said. “And no one else saw him with the raised pipe, except Shipman.”

Galipo told the jury that they must hold the police department accountable for the actions of its officers.

“Someone has to step up,” he said. “Yes, the police have a tough job, but we don’t want people to be killed in circumstances like this.”

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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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