Shoot the Mentally Ill?

The following story was supplied to us by a copblock follower in California. It is the story of a man who committed no crime but was shot to death with a bullet to the back of his head in front of his own home. LEOs claimed to have felt threatened because the man was psychologically disturbed at the time. They were afraid of him.

When will they learn that they – the police – shouldn’t be the ones to handle mental illness? Don’t they realize that is what doctors are for? The comments that follow the story are disturbing to say the least. It appears that most people believe the police were just “doing their job” when they killed this mentally ill man who needed treatment, not death.

The write-up below by Kerana Todorov, Poccia family sues city over 2010 shooting, was first published in the Napa Valley Register.

The family of the man shot to death by police in November 2010 near his Alta Heights house is pursuing a federal lawsuit against the city of Napa, the Napa Police Department and two officers involved in the incident.

The complaint, filed on Jan. 28 in Oakland, stems from the killing of Richard Poccia, 60, on Nov. 28, 2010, in front of his home in the 1400 block of Meek Avenue.

Alleging that Poccia’s civil rights were violated, the suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, including punitive, legal expenses, funeral and burial expenses, according to court documents.

On May 14, a federal judge in Oakland dismissed all charges filed against Napa Police Chief Rich Melton without prejudice, but allowed the case to continue against the city, the Police Department and the two Napa police officers, court records show.

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers also set aside an injunction sought by the family to force the police department to change its training and practices, court records indicate.

A modified complaint may be filed shortly, possibly Monday, said Khaldoun Baghdadi, of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly and Schoenberger of San Francisco, the law firm representing the family. No trial date has been set.

Attorneys for the city have denied the plaintiff’s allegations in court documents and sought to have the entire case dismissed.

“At this point, we are defending the city vigorously,” said David C. Jones, an attorney for the city, Milton and the officers named in the lawsuit.

In their complaint, Poccia’s family, including his widow, Samanda Dorger, and his daughter, Gabrielle Poccia, allege that Richard Poccia, who was killed by a gunshot wound in the back of his head, was unlawfully detained and killed with a AR15 assault rifle, court records show.

The lawsuit named the city, Police Chief Rich Melton, Officer Nick Dalessi who fired the fatal shot, and Officer Brad Baker who fired a Taser, stunning Poccia with an electrical charge.

“Richard Poccia had not committed any crime and did not present a threat of harm to the defendants or to anyone else,” the complaint said. “Napa Police Officer Nick Dalessi shot and killed Richard Poccia in the absence of just cause or provocation, violating his constitutional and personal rights, and those of his family.

“Brad Baker used excessive and unreasonable force against Richard Poccia in the absence of just cause or provocation violating his constitutional and personal rights and those of his family,” the lawsuit said.

In February 2011, the Napa County district attorney’s office found no crime had been committed. The district attorney found the shooting of Poccia justified, calling the incident “reasonable self-defense.”

According to the sheriff’s office, which investigated the shooting, Poccia was alone in his home in severe psychiatric distress and armed with two handguns and a shotgun on the day that police were called to his Alta Heights home.

According to authorities, Poccia agreed to speak with officers who had assembled in front of his house. Police directed him to walk out of his house slowly with his hands up, according to district attorney’s office.

Poccia initially complied, but his demeanor quickly changed as he got within eight feet of the police officers, authorities said. Police fired when Poccia reached into his waistband and started to pull out an object officers thought was a gun, the district attorney said in its February 2011 report. The object was identified later as a folding knife.

The city’s lead counsel is Greg Fox of Bertrand, Fox and Elliot of San Francisco, which specializes in defending public entities and police officers from excessive force and other work-related claims. To date, the city has paid the attorney about $34,000 of his work, Jones said.

Baghdadi said depositions will be scheduled to find out about what happened.



When you see "CopBlock" as the author it means it was submitted via our submission tab - you can share your story too. If you enjoy this content and/or believe "Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights" get yourself some CopBlock Gear from our store or donate just $1/month to the CopBlock Network.