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Family of man shot by Fresno police awarded $4.75 million by federal civil jury

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 federal jury on Wednesday awarded $4.75 million to the family of a 45-year-old man who was fatally shot by Fresno police in 2015.

The family of Casimero “Shane” Casillas sued the city over his death. In its lawsuit it alleged that Fresno police Officer Trevor Shipman violated Casillas’ civil rights by using excessive force when he confronted Casillas on Sept. 7, 2015.

The jury reached its verdict in U.S. District Court in Fresno after two days of deliberations.

Eric Valenzuela, one of the three attorneys representing Casillas’ family in the civil rights lawsuit, called the verdict a “rarity” that sends a message, and will have a “rippling effect” when holding officers responsible when they use unreasonable, excessive force.

“You can’t count on the police to police themselves,” Valenzuela said. “If you do that, they are just going to always find (a shooting) within policy — always a good shooting.”

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

Representatives for Fresno’s city attorney’s office said little after the verdict. “The City is disappointed with the verdict but respects the jury process and is evaluating its post-trial options,” a statement from the office said.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer expressed similar sentiments. “I respect the decision by the jurors and I appreciate their service,” he said in an email. “I am surprised by the verdict and extremely disappointed. I will be meeting with the City Attorney’s Office to discuss post trial options.”

Attorney Dale K. Galipo, also representing the family, said the city can still file a motion to try to set the verdict aside by claiming there’s not enough evidence to support it. That would have to happen within the next 30 to 60 days.

If the judge denies the post-trial motion, the city can try to take the case to the appeals court.

“But I’m confident this verdict will stand because I believe it’s supported by substantial evidence,” Galipo said. “We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict and we are hoping what happened to (Casillas) in this case, does not happen to someone else, which is one of the reasons why we bring these cases forward.”

Attorney William Schmidt, the third attorney representing Casillas’ family, said no specific amount of money was requested.

“They (the jury) came up with this number $4.75 million in total completely on their own,” he said.

However, Valenzuela added that one factor the jury considered is that Casillas would receive over $1 million annually from Mountain Table casino for tribe benefits.

Shipman is now employed as a deputy in the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. When he was still employed with Fresno police, he had been honored for his bravery for attempting to save a paralyzed man inside a burning home, before learning the man had escaped.

The amount in the Casillas case surpasses the $2.8 million the city of Fresno last August agreed to pay in a settlement over the fatal police shooting of Dylan Noble, 19, in 2016.

As of last November, there have been six civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement in the city of Fresno since 2016.

Yesenia Amaro covers immigration and diverse communities for The Fresno Bee. She previously worked for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. She recently received the 2018 Journalistic Integrity award from the CACJ. In 2015, she won the Outstanding Journalist of the Year Award from the Nevada Press Association, and also received the Community Service Award.


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