Police are not liable for the killing of a domestic violence victim or for the shooting of another victim by her estranged husband in 2014, a federal judge ruled this month in dismissing a civil rights lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department.
Judge Dale A. Drozd ruled in U.S. District Court in Fresno that established law says “there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.”
The case involved the killing of Cindy Raygoza and the wounding of Pamela Motley, who was left a quadriplegic.
Fresno attorney Kevin Little filed the lawsuit in June 2015 on behalf of Motley and Raygoza’s family, contending that Fresno police didn’t do enough to help domestic violence victims even though they were clearly in dangerous situations.
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There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.
U.S. Judge Dale Drozd’s ruling
After the suit was filed, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer defended his department’s actions.
“We do everything that we possibly can to combat domestic violence and to prevent people from becoming victims of domestic violence,” Dyer said.
Dyer said this month that he has made it a top priority for his department to deal with this year. Fresno has a high rate of domestic violence.
In his Jan. 8 ruling, Drozd says the facts in the two shootings were tragic:
On March 13, 2014, Motley called the Fresno Police Department to report that her estranged husband, Paul Motley, had attacked her. When officers found Paul Motley, they saw injuries on him as well as his wife and determined it was “mutual combat,” so he was not arrested, but his estranged wife received a emergency protective order.
Over the next few weeks, Paul Motley kept harassing his estranged wife. She called police about the harassment, but her estranged husband was not arrested.
“On April 7, 2014, Paul threatened Pamela Motley in person that he would kill her with his gun if she did not return to him by April, 14, 2017,” the ruling says.
Police say an officer gave Pamela Motley information about how she could protect herself. But Pamela Motley contended that an officer “was rude, insensitive, made sexist remarks” to her and stayed only about 10 to 15 minutes, the ruling says. Police denied making the comments.
On April 12, 2014, Paul Motley, shot his estranged wife outside her parents’ home, which resulted in her paralysis. Paul Motley then committed suicide.
The civil rights case involves the 2014 killing of Cindy Raygoza and the wounding of Pamela Motley, who was left a quadriplegic.
In Raygoza’s case, the ruling says, she called police in February 2014 because her ex-boyfriend, Michael Reams, broke into her home and tried to choke her. He fled before police arrived.
The ruling says that when Raygoza told police she had been a victim of domestic violence in a prior marriage, she said an officer “criticized her choices in men,” a statement police deny making. Instead, police told Raygoza to avoid associating with Reams and offered to get her an emergency restraining order, which she declined; she wanted a permanent restraining order, the ruling says.
Little contended in court papers that police told Raygoza that she would be “crying wolf” and would not receive police services if she continued to associate with Reams and called police for help.
On July 14, 2014, Reams broke into Raygoza’s home and fatally stabbed her. Neighbors called police, but it was too late – Reams was stabbing Raygoza when officers arrived and fatally shot him.
Drozd says in his ruling that people have a constitutional right to have police services administered in a nondiscriminatory manner. “In bringing this actions, plaintiffs contend, in essence, that their assailants were ‘given a pass by the police’ because of the officers bias against their victims,” the ruling says.
But in his final analysis, Drozd says Little provided no evidence that the police gave disparate treatment to domestic violence victims.
Little says he will appeal Drozd’s ruling: “We feel the opinion was highly erroneous in several respects. It’s a shame that now the plaintiffs will have to go through years of appeals before getting their case to trial.”