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Tony Garza was as soon as a star highschool wrestler in Yucca Valley, however later in life, his household mentioned, he didn’t know find out how to grapple along with his psychological well being points.

Garza suffered from paranoia, in accordance with family members, and on Feb. 5, 2021, they tried to assist Garza, calling San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies to carry out a welfare verify on him. Garza wound up following the deputies in his truck, on the lookout for their license plates, in accordance with his household’s legal professional.

Deputies arrested Garza on suspicion of assault with a lethal weapon after he allegedly drove towards them.

Two years to the day of the welfare verify, Garza was fatally shot by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies throughout a pursuit that began in Yucca Valley and resulted in Palm Springs.

The household of Garza filed a $20-million wrongful-death declare Thursday in opposition to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division, alleging the 44-year-old was shot a dozen occasions by deputies whereas he was in the course of a psychological well being disaster.

“These officers shot Mr. Garza useless as he fled by way of the desert,” Brian Olney, one of many attorneys representing Garza’s household, mentioned Thursday at a information convention. He added that Garza was failed not simply by the deputies who fatally shot him however by the courts and a damaged psychological well being system that was repeatedly unable to get Garza the assistance he wanted.

Tony Garza, 44, was shot and killed by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies throughout a pursuit on Feb. 5. His household mentioned he was in a psychological well being disaster on the time.

(Garza household)

Garza was burning private gadgets on his property in Yucca Valley on Feb. 5, when deputies responded to a reported field trailer hearth, in accordance with his household’s attorneys. When the deputies arrived and tried to make contact, Garza fled in his automobile, the Sheriff’s Division mentioned.

Garza led deputies on a 35-minute chase from Freeway 62 to Interstate 10, with him leaping out of his truck and fleeing on foot, close to the Whitewater Cutoff, in accordance with witness video. The video exhibits 4 deputies operating after Garza alongside the I-10 in Palm Springs, with Garza dealing with the deputies a number of occasions whereas holding an object in his fingers.

Garza took off once more earlier than falling to the bottom as deputies fired at him, in accordance with the video.

Garza’s attorneys have additionally filed wrongful-death claims in opposition to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Division and the California Freeway Patrol, each of which responded to the pursuit, alleging they didn’t de-escalate the scenario and ignored their coaching when Garza was killed on the aspect of the freeway.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s officers declined to remark, citing open litigation. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Division is investigating the capturing because it occurred in its county.

An impartial post-mortem report confirmed Garza was shot a dozen occasions, Olney mentioned. The post-mortem confirmed that Garza was shot twice within the again, and a minimum of twice when he was already on the bottom.

“The killing of Tony Garza was a heinous and cowardly act,” Olney mentioned. “They did every part fallacious.”

Members of the family mentioned Garza’s demise has left them wrecked and on the lookout for solutions.

“I’m heartbroken, devastated and a bit of my coronary heart is now lacking,” mentioned Matilde Garza, who misplaced her son.

The lethal incident adopted what the household mentioned was a continued and failed battle to get Garza assist for his psychological well being sickness.

Garza’s psychological well being started to deteriorate in 2021, in accordance with household. Members of the family mentioned they reached out to a number of impartial and authorities organizations on the lookout for help, together with inquiring about conservatorship of Garza, however they had been unsuccessful.

“His psychological well being continued to say no and he grew to become extra paranoid and fearful,” mentioned his sister, Silvia Garza-Littman.

Garza didn’t see he was struggling, and several other of the applications declined to supply help as a result of he didn’t search assist himself, she mentioned.

On Feb. 5, 2021, family members known as deputies for a welfare verify on Garza. He was arrested that day on suspicion of assault with a lethal weapon after he allegedly drove towards deputies, Olney mentioned.

Garza was launched, Olney mentioned, and located to not be mentally competent to face trial. He was ordered by a decide to be held in county jail for every week till he might be entered right into a psychological well being facility.

However what was imagined to be every week became 5 months, with Garza being held within the county’s common jail inhabitants, Olney mentioned. Members of the family continued to inquire whether or not house had opened up at a psychological well being facility, and the decide in his case held follow-up hearings asking when he might be transferred.

Members of the family later discovered Garza’s title had not been placed on the 800-person wait record. As an alternative, he remained in county jail with out entry to psychological assist.

Olney mentioned the expertise was traumatizing for Garza.

“Think about how a wholesome particular person would react, and he was mentally ailing,” he mentioned.

Garza was launched on Jan. 24 — 12 days earlier than he was shot by deputies — and advised he wanted to seek out psychological well being assist inside 48 hours. When Garza checked into the court-ordered places of work, he was advised there was a six-month wait record.

“Nobody would step in to assist our brother,” Garza-Littman mentioned. “As an alternative of serving to, they solely made issues worse.”

The household is urging for adjustments within the psychological well being system. Family members have rented billboards close to Garza’s residence and the location the place he was shot. The billboards have Garza’s picture and skim, “My solely crime was psychological sickness & the system killed me.”

Attorneys have reached out to the U.S. Division of Justice and the California legal professional common’s workplace to research the capturing, saying they’ve acquired little to no info from native legislation enforcement about what occurred.

“Our present system is damaged from the highest down,” Garza-Littman mentioned. “We would like his title cleared.”

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