The parents of Dylan Noble went on offense Thursday, asking mothers and fathers to stand together and get justice for the 19-year-old who was gunned down by two Fresno police officers during a traffic stop last month.
Meanwhile, family lawyers Warren Paboojian and Stuart Chandler have set the groundwork to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department.
The lawyers have hired a forensic pathologist who has viewed Noble’s body. They have hired an expert in police procedures in using deadly force. And they have hired a private investigator who will interview witnesses once law enforcement agency investigations into the shooting are completed.
Standing in the midday sun outside Paboojian’s northwest Fresno office, Noble’s mother, Veronica Nelson, and his father, Darren Noble, spoke to reporters for the first time since their son was killed at a Chevron station at Shields and Armstrong avenues on the afternoon of June 25.
They told reporters they appreciate all the support they have received from family, friends and the community, but were upset with the Fresno Police Department for implying that Dylan Noble was suicidal. Deputy Police Chief Pat Farmer told reporters at a news conference the day of the shooting that Noble had said that he hated his life moments before he was fatally shot.
Noble’s parents also said they want an outside law enforcement agency to investigate their son’s death.
“We are heartbroken over the senseless death of our son,” Darren Noble said. “Dylan was a fun-loving kid. He loved life. Everybody around him loved him, and for anybody to say differently didn’t know Dylan or is doing it for an ulterior motive.”
Nelson was even more upset. “I’m outraged that the police would shoot my son and say it was his fault,” Nelson said. “To say he was suicidal, to say he was unhappy, if you knew my son, you would know it was lies.”
Nelson then asked mothers and fathers “to please join me in demanding justice for Dylan.”
“We will get justice,” Nelson said. “We will get justice.”
The parents’ remarks came a day after a bystander’s video showed Dylan Noble lying wounded on the ground next to his pickup as two officers fired two times at him – 14 seconds apart. The final shot was a shotgun blast toward his upper body.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer has said the officers believed Noble was about to shoot them. But officers later learned that Noble was unarmed. Dyer said July 6 that the FBI has agreed to monitor the police Internal Affairs investigation.
The witness video is only 26 seconds. Two officers bark commands at Noble, such as “Show us your hands” and “Get your hands up.”
An officer then fires toward Noble as he lies face up, his head closest to the officers.
The officers continue to yell at Dylan, who appears to be moving his hands.
Noble tells the officers: “I’ve been shot.”
After a long pause, an officer shoots again. The video then shows Noble moving his hands upward.
Dyer said the two officers shot Noble four times. The video shows the final two shots, he said.
Dyer said the two officers who shot Noble are veterans, one with 20 years on the police force and the other with 17 years.
In defending his officers, Dyer said police gave Noble ample time to surrender, but he ignored officers’ commands in the moments before the witness began recording. What’s not visible in the witness video, Dyer said, is that Noble, while lying on the ground, used his left hand to lift up his shirt. He then put his right hand into his waistband. When he suddenly pulled out his right hand, the officer believed he was pulling out a gun, Dyer said. The officer feared for his life and shot Noble, Dyer said.
Noble was shot again 14 seconds later after he put his right hand into his waistband again and pulled it out, Dyer said.
The two officers were wearing body video cameras when they shot Noble. Dyer said he plans to release the police video to the public once the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office completes its investigation of the shooting.
At Thursday’s news conference, Paboojian challenged Dyer to release the police videos immediately so the public can have a clear picture of what happened.
“We are here to dispute the allegation that Dylan Noble wanted to die on June 25,” Paboojian said. “There’s no evidence of that.”
If there is evidence, Paboojian said, Dyer needs to release the entire police video “so the public and community can determine whether or not that is the case.”
In making his argument, Paboojian said Noble was a “happy-go-lucky, 19-year-old on the go” who had a job and no mental illness or depression.
“What we know about Dylan Noble is inconsistent from what the police say,” Paboojian said.
Since the killing, Paboojian said, he and the family have cooperated with the police investigation. But once the investigation is completed, Paboojian said, he plans to file a claim with the city of Fresno, accusing police of negligence and violating Noble’s civil rights. If the claim is denied, Paboojian said he will file a civil rights lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department.
The shooting of Noble has gained worldwide attention through social media and the Guardian newspaper that’s headquartered in England.
Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Mayor Ashley Swearengin declined to answer The Bee’s questions on whether she had any concerns about the shooting given the community backlash and the information that’s surfaced so far. She deferred to Dyer and city spokesman Mark Standriff, who is on vacation.
About an hour later, Standriff emailed a statement from the mayor, saying the shooting was “an extremely tragic situation. The City is focused on full and complete cooperation with the investigations that are under way by the District Attorney, FBI, Internal Affairs, and the Office of Independent Review, as well as reaching out to the family to offer them the opportunity to view the full video before it is released to the public.”
On Thursday, City Council candidate Garry Bredefeld said: “We had a tragedy here. A 19-year-old lost his life, and my heart breaks for that family and for his friends. I would just encourage people to be patient, let the investigation take place.”
Bredefeld made his remarks at an event where he announced endorsements from Dyer, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, former Sheriff Steve Magarian, former Mayor Alan Autry, former mayoral candidate H. Spees and Fresno Unified School District trustee Brooke Ashjian. All but Dyer attended the event.
“Let’s see what happens,” Bredefeld said. “There is a process for this. But in the meantime, all of us up here, our hearts break for the loss of a 19-year-old life.”