The town of Danville has been presented with a wrongful-death claim by the family of Laudemer Arboleda, who was killed by a Danville police officer at the end of a short pursuit earlier this month.
The claim -- which typically precedes a lawsuit pending the town’s rejection -- was submitted by the Law Offices of John L. Burris on Friday and claimed that police followed the 33-year-old Newark man without justification and fired upon him unnecessarily as he attempted to slowly drive past officers.
It was filed with the town Friday on behalf of Arboleda's mother Jeannie Atienza, and seeks damages in excess of $25,000, due to breach of duty by police, negligence, emotional distress and wrongful death.
“We believe that Arboleda had not committed any crimes. Our understanding is police were called out because he looked suspicious. Once again he was not wanted for anything, he had no outstanding warrants, he had not committed any crimes and officers had no information that he had engaged in any criminal activity,” said Adante Pointer, an attorney at Burris firm.
Arboleda died on the morning of Nov. 3 after a run-in with police in downtown Danville at the intersection of Front Street and Diablo Road.
Police say on that day they received a call from a resident reporting that a stranger -- later identified as Arboleda -- was walking around the neighborhood near downtown with bags in hand and acting suspicious.
Police arrived on scene and a short pursuit ensued, ending with Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Andrew Hall, firing multiple shots into Arboleda’s vehicle when he allegedly attempted to run down officers, according to investigators. The town of Danville contracts with the sheriff's office for police services.
The family's attorneys also allege that Arboleda’s skin color -- he was of Filipino descent -- may have factored into Hall’s decision to use lethal force.
“The officer, based upon physical evidence was not in the direct line of the car and had the ability to step out of the way, chose to use deadly force on a person he had no information had done anything,” Pointer said. “We don't think that the officer would use the same amount of force if the person was not brown or black.”
The claim itself also highlighted the practice of allowing police to fire upon moving vehicles, a practice that is not used by many police agencies due to the heightened risk of collateral damage, the attorneys argue.
The sheriff’s office was quick to maintain its position that Arboleda was driving recklessly and presenting a danger to police.
“This is a tragic case, yet once again John Burris is reaching for his well-worn race card. This is not about race. This is about a dangerous and reckless person trying to run down and murder a police officer. Once all investigations are completed, we look forward to sharing the full details with the public,” Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said in a statement Monday.
Town officials deferred comment about the claim to the sheriff's office.
Arboleda's death was Danville police’s first officer-involved shooting since August 2001.
A civil rights attorney out of Oakland, Burris has become known for taking on cases related to police abuse and brutality. Past cases include the sexual abuse case of Guap v Bay Area PD, the battery of Nandi Cain by Sacramento police officers, the killing of Keita O’Neil by San Francisco police and worked on the Rodney King civil suit against the LAPD, to name a few.