The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office has been sued in federal court because one of its deputies shot and killed someone. Again.
This action, filed Monday, July 19, in US Court in Fresno, stems from the shooting of 16-year-old Xander Mann. That lawsuit follows by eight days the filing of a similar action based upon the fatal shooting of Eloy Gonzalez, 41, last September.
The teenager and the homeless man were killed under different circumstances and months apart but the latest action says both killings were part of a pattern of practice or custom in the Stanislaus Sheriff’s office; a “culture” which effectively encourages the use of excessive force.
Further, the suit alleges that both the previous sheriff, Adam Christiansan, and the current one, Jeff Dirkse, have failed to curtail use of excessive force by not disciplining deputies who violated department policies, or giving “slaps on the wrist” where more serious punishment should have been meted out.
About 2 am on May 18, Xander Mann and four teenage friends were in his car when deputies tried to stop him for a traffic infraction which they have refused to specify. He sped away and refused to stop as he wound through Modesto at relatively slow speed. After a second attempt to bump his car out of control with a patrol car, Xander’s vehicle came to a stop in the same industrial park out by Modesto’s airport where Gonzalez was killed.
What happened there is very much in dispute. Attorneys for Xander’s mother, Amy Pickering of Stanislaus County and Justin Mann of Larsen County, (law Offices of Mark E. Merin of Sacramento) said in the pleading that Sheriff Dirkse’s characterization of the events was “false” in virtually every detail.
Deputy Gerardo Zazueta, the only deputy who discharged his firearm, did not activate his body video camera and the body cameras of other deputies do not provide a clear picture of what happened.
Simply put, Deputy Zazueta and Sheriff Dirkse claim the deputy fired because Xander accelerated towards the deputy, while the lawsuit claims the deputy fired at least three times though the driver’s side window as the vehicle drove past the deputy. The suit says the vehicle accelerated only after Xander was shot in the head, went limp and his foot pressed on the accelerator pedal.
Specifically, the suit says: “Defendant Gerardo Zazueta was never in the path of the vehicle driven by Xander Mann and was never in danger of being struck by the vehicle.” (Pg. 6, lines 8-9)
The claim is that the deputy fired into a car which was known to contain “kids”, as evidenced by radio transmissions, car to car, between deputies. At least one other occupant was “grazed” on the head, the suit says, requiring 48 stitches or staples to close the wound.
In alleging the “culture permitting or encouraging (deputies’) use of unreasonable force” (Pg. 10, lines 5-6) the suit cites “use of deadly force against non-threatening persons”. (Pg. 10, line 7). It details 11 prior incidents ranging chronologically from the shooting death of Evin Yadegar in February of 2017 through that of Mr. Gonzalez last September. It includes not only shootings but beatings, suffocating restraints and deploying police dogs to cause serious injury.
Most of those cases pre-date Sheriff Dirkse but the Gonzalez and Mann cases happened on his watch. And, the law suit notes, Dirkse was in a supervisory capacity at the sheriff’s office since he became a sergeant in 2013. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2015 and has been a policy maker since becoming Sheriff in 2019.
Dirkse as the policy maker sets the tone for the future actions of his deputy, the suit contends. The same was true for his predecessor, Sheriff Christianson, who defended the actions of his deputy Justin Wall up until to his arrest for manslaughter about a year after he shot and killed a middle aged woman as she slowly drove away from the officers surrounding her car.
From public records it does not appear that deputy lost a day’s pay in the year or so until his arrest.
NEXT: Details of the dozen or more incidents where the use of force by Stanislaus sheriff’s deputies is questioned in the most current legal action.
Someone, near and dear to me, after being falsely arrested by Modesto Police Department officers, who clearly botched their investigation, was placed in a cell with a person, known, from prior arrests, to need meds for some sorts of anxious behavioral acting out, who had refused meds, ended up making terrorist threats towards the person I know.
The Sheriff Department’s correctional officers were warned, over the intercom existing in each cell, by the anxious prisoner that the other cellmate was going to be harmed badly. There was never a response of any kind to intervene for the entire night, hence, leaving the person threatened in terror, afraid to move an inch, for fear of rousing serious bodily harm, for hours upon hours. This, while the prisoner making the terrorist threats, because of yelling the threats loudly, arroused the other inmates up and down the floors, to also take part in making their own terrorist threats, towards the person locked into a cell, under duress, due to the emotionally fraught individual, desirous of ranting and raving threats.
Finally, the following morning, over 12 hours later, a sheriff came to the cell to ask if everyone was okay. The two cellmates were separated, into separate cells, once all the facts were heard. Imagine the utter turmoil of being arrested for something not true, then spending the night with an enraged cellmate, making terrorist threats, along with atleast 10 other prisoners threatening to get you, when you come out, with absolutely no intervention, until the light of day.
HERE IS WHAT IS THE CRUX OF THE ENTIRE MATTER AND WHY THIS BECAME EVEN MORE EGREGIOUS: AFTER ALL CRIMINAL CHARGES WERE DISMISSED (AFTER SOLID EVIDENCE PROVED ENTIRELY FALSE CHARGES HAD BEEN ILLEGALLY LODGED) ALL RECORDS WERE REQUESTED, OF: THE ALL NIGHT, TERRORIST CRIME INCIDENT (THAT DID HAPPEN), DURING THE ALREADY HEINOUS FALSE IMPRISONMENT.
YET, I AM CERTAIN, MOST VALLEY CITIZENS CAN GUESS WHAT THE OUTCOME OF THE REQUEST WAS: NOT ONE (1) SINGLE RECORD EXISTS, OF THE EGREGIOUS INCIDENT SUFFERED. THE SHERIFFS DEPT, ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP, CLAIMS THAT NOT SO MUCH AS A SHORT NOTE IN ANY LOG, FROM THE STANISLAUS COUNTY PUBLIC SAFETY CENTER, CAN BE LOCATED, AND, NOONE RECALLS THE INCIDENT. EVEN THOUGH, PROOF EXISTS THAT CELL LOCATIONS CHANGED, FOR WHAT, NOW, APPEARS TO BE FOR SOME ODD REASON. ROTTEN TO THE CORE?
Justin mann says
My name is Justin Mann I am xander Manns father. The Stan Co. Sheriff depth. Killed my son in cold blood. I just got back I to town. I was in fire camp in cdcr. I want to thank you for your post. Please contact me at Mann.email@example.com.