Family of man fatally shot by Danville police file claim against town

Attorneys allege officer unnecessarily used lethal force in wrongful death

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.


51 people like this
Posted by Danville
a resident of Danville
on Nov 20, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Danville Police, please do not pay a CENT on this frivolous claim. John Burris does not try his cases in court, he tries them in the press, always playing the alleged race card with the media. Look him up at the state bar website, he was disciplined and suspended from practicing law by the state bar previously due to his conduct.

Does he actually think a local jury will believe that the police officer shot this suspect because he was " a person of color"! Please! Is there even any evidence that the police officer could make out what race this suspect was as the suspect raced his vehicle at the officer. The police risk their lives every single day to protect complete strangers, and the last thing this brave officer wanted to do was take a life. But he had no choice, as the suspect refused a lawful order by the police to stop and drove his car at the officer, who had to fire in self defense. This suspect could have killed the officer, or an innocent bystander on the sidewalk or street by trying to flee.

It has widely been reported that this suspect had numerous run ins with the police in Newark before this incident, including looking in windows of homes. Of course, his family immediately hires this John Burris to try to make some cash with this lawsuit. His family should have spent that time and energy in dealing with their son's long problematic behavior and getting him help before he tried to kill a police officer.

It is important the community support the police and encourage the police department to zealously fight this lawsuit, and not settle, to send a message to the John Burris's of the world that this is Danville, not Oakland or San Francisco, and we respect the job our local police do in trying to keep us safe.

It is very sad that this suspect died, but there are consequences when you ignore a lawful order to stop and try to hit the police with your car while fleeing, and I am sure nobody feels worse than the officer that had to fire the shot.

27 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Danville
on Nov 21, 2018 at 7:16 am

This thing will end up like most Burris cases. City settles rather than a trial because it's cheaper. Then there's the uncertainty of a jury trial due to the race card being played. Just the way our legal system is these days.

Burris gets his 40% +/- contingency fee without a lot of work and goes on the the next race card event.

17 people like this
Posted by Lupe
a resident of Danville
on Nov 21, 2018 at 7:48 am

The officer had to save his own life by taking another. Sad for all concerned,except, of course, the predatory Mr. Burris.

15 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Danville
on Nov 21, 2018 at 3:23 pm

The officer shot into a vehicle that then continued down the street. This is bad police work. The officer was standing to the side in no danger of being hit by the car. Pay up and fire the officer. Get to the bottom of a police department that plays cowboys with the public safety.

13 people like this
Posted by Malcolm Hex
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 21, 2018 at 11:35 pm

Hey Mr. Concerned, were you there? Idiot.

16 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Nov 22, 2018 at 10:39 am

Danville PD have a problem
1) Policeman shots into a vehicle. Bad idea because of driver will lose control. Shooting a driver is not an effective way to stop a car.

2) Bullets strike front wind shield on passenger side of vehicle. Policeman must be standing to the side in order for bullets to hit driver.

3) Vehicle continues down the street with wounded/dead driver. Policeman was not in path or vehicle or he would have been struck by car as it continued down the street.

4) Policeman approached the car roughly from the front. Against every recommendation of how to approach a car. But because of the shots impacting the front passenger side it was more likely at at least at 45 degree angle.

5) Police pissed off because the car had pulled over multiple times and then slowly driven away. Nothing like feeling powerless to decide to end the chase by shooting the suspect.

6) Car was not boxed in correctly or would have not continued down the street after driver was shot.

Not sure how Danville PD can defend against the facts. The police made a lot of bad decisions and it does not look good.

14 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Nov 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

Left out couple other facts in the above post.
7) Vehicle struck an on coming car after driver shot. Luckily the driver of the other car did not die or the lawsuit would have been for 2 deaths. If the driver of the other car joins lawsuit more problems.

8) Witness to behaviour of suspect said suspect was mentally challenged and confused not high or on drugs.

9) Behaviour of suspect was suspicious which is why a call to the police was made. Suspicious is not a crime yet the police attempted to pull the driver over. Police can not pull you over unless they believe you have committed a crime.

Danville PD will probably get house cleaned after this is over. Police chief comments to press were very defensive and justified the shooting before he even had a chance to review the evidence. This will come back to bite him.

9 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of Blackhawk
on Nov 23, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Hmmm. If the officer had not shot and stopped the vehicle, might he have continued on and run over-possibly killing-innocent bystanders? Clearly, this individual was a danger to the public at the point he was shot. Not saying he deserved to die, but his actions put a lot of others in danger and at some point the police had to weigh that. If your son, daughter, wife, etc had been walking around that area and their welfare and safety were jeopardized, I think you would be happy the police did what they did. I know I would.

9 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on Nov 23, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Yeah sure Mike.

Unless of course you or anyone you care about was remotely threatened by the guy fleeing from Law Enforcement.

And I'm guessing if some sketch looking guy was sitting outside your house for a few hours you wouldn't call the Police?

Gimme a break dude. Get real.

13 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Nov 23, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Yes I care because my wife and kid could have been in that car that the suspect car crashed head-on into after the driver was shot. Danville PD are so lucky that the out of control car did not kill someone. Looks like air bags deployed in both cars.

A non-violent mentally challenged person who keeps slowly driving away each time he was stopped was not a danger to the public. The danger to the public was created by the policeman killing the driver of a car. Smart policemen who are protecting the public do not shoot into cars. A 9mm does not stop a car. The policeman killed the driver but the danger to the public sky-rocketed in the aftermath.

1 person likes this
Posted by Louie
a resident of Danville
on Nov 27, 2018 at 8:16 am

Condolences to the family.

Did the mentally challenged deceased qualify for a drivers license?

2 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Nov 28, 2018 at 6:56 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

I have many professional African American friends who fear for their son’s lives if they are pulled over by law enforcement. As a Caucasian mother, I don’t have the same fear. I have a Causian friend whose daughter was in a car accident ( not her fault) and seriously injured. The police investigating the accident were the ones who lost their jobs because of the phone porn a few years ago. These officers did such a poor job regarding the accident investigation (failing to cite the other driver for numerous vehicle violations), it made getting the other party’s insurance company to pay for the medical bills difficult. The mother reached out to Burris( who also does personal injury) he wasn’t interested in the case because the daughter wasn’t of color. I wonder if Burris would have been interested if he knew the daughter was a lesbian with an African American partner. Perhaps that would have been more news worthy.

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