Police kill man in mental health crisis seconds after arrival, California lawsuit says

Summer Lin
·2 min read

A California woman is suing over the death of her husband after she said she called 911 during his mental health crisis in 2018 and he was shot and killed by police.

In a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Kristin Hart said that on the morning of Dec. 10, 2018, her husband Kyle Hart used a knife to cut his arm, neck and chest, prompting her to call Redwood City police.

Hart said that 16 seconds after officers arrived at her backyard, they fired multiple gunshots and killed her husband, according to the lawsuit.

Officers Roman Gomez and Leila Velez “escalated the situation by charging into the backyard” and unsuccessfully tried to use a Taser on him, according to the lawsuit. Gomez shot at Kyle five times, missing twice, and killing him, the suit states.

“Kyle was a sick person in need of help, and rather than provide the help they are trained to give, the police killed him. Kyle deserved better; the citizens of Redwood City deserve better. Kyle will be forever missed by our family and his community,” Kristin Hart said in a news release.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in March 2019 that the killing was justified and the officers wouldn’t face criminal charges “because Hart was charging at Gomez and Officer Leila Velez with the knife,” The Mercury News reported.

“The officers acted lawfully in response to a dangerous and rapidly-evolving situation,” Wagstaffe said. “The death of Mr. Hart is a tragic outcome for his family and the community, but it is my belief that both officers conducted themselves in a professional, reasonable and proper manner and to the last moment sought to avoid the very result caused by the conduct of Mr. Hart.”

Prosecutors said Hart was holding a butcher knife and advanced towards the officers, KPIX reported. After a Taser didn’t work on Hart, Gomez shot him, according to prosecutors.

Hart later died at a hospital, the station reported.

Kristin Hart said that the officers were “immediately aggressive” when they arrived at her home, The Mercury News reported.

“They didn’t use his name, they didn’t ask for any information — they approached him as a criminal and not someone in crisis,” she said. “The only question they asked was, ‘Where is he?’ ”

Kyle Hart was a teacher at Greene Middle School in Palo Alto. The couple have two children, and their daughter Ellie was born three days before Kyle’s death, the release said.