Mother of man killed by H.B. police alleges excessive force, vows lawsuit

The mother of a Huntington Beach man who was shot and killed by police Thursday night after he reportedly chased children and others with a baseball bat at a park said Saturday that she will file a lawsuit against the city, claiming the Police Department "brutally" killed her son.

Angela Hernandez spoke at a news conference in front of the field at the Huntington Central Park Sports Complex where her son Steven Schiltz, 29, was killed by two Huntington Beach police officers.

She said she believes Schiltz was running from police when he was shot and that she is seeking justice for him.

At the time of his death, Schiltz had been living in his mother's Huntington Beach home. Hernandez said he was working in construction and at a local horse stable.

Hernandez said she believes police could have used other ways to restrain her son, such as using a Taser or tear gas. She and her attorney, Michael Guisti, said the lawsuit will allege excessive force and wrongful death.

The shooting is the fourth involving Huntington Beach police officers this year.

Police Lt. Mitch O'Brien declined to comment about the case Saturday.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department will investigate Schiltz's shooting, as is typical for officer-involved shootings. Sheriff's Lt. Lane Lagaret declined to comment Saturday.

Police said earlier that they responded to the sports complex at 18120 Goldenwest St. at about 7:20 p.m. Thursday after receiving emergency calls about a man with a bat and a broken bottle hitting trees and chasing people around the fields.

Jose Sanchez, a club soccer coach who witnessed the shooting, said the fields were packed with children and families that night. He said he watched as Schiltz chased an adult baseball player onto the field where Sanchez's girls' soccer team was practicing.

Sanchez said two officers entered the field with their guns drawn and ordered Schiltz, who looked like he was about to swing at a woman sitting on the bleachers, to drop what he was holding. Sanchez said the object appeared to be a broken bottle.

According to Sanchez, officers fired three shots at Schiltz but he kept moving toward the woman. The officers fired three or four more rounds, Sanchez said.

Schiltz was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

The Police Department has declined to comment about the number of shots the officers fired or how many times Schiltz was hit.

Guisti said police endangered the public by firing into an area where park visitors were present.

He also said he believes every accusation needs to be studied in the wake of Thursday's shooting. He said there is a "fog of war" scenario obscuring the story of what occurred and that he needs to get to the bottom of it.

"We have an unusual amount of [officer-involved] shootings in this county," Guisti said. "Orange County residents really do have to start questioning the way law enforcement is handling use of force."

Hernandez said she also believes there is more to the case that needs to be uncovered.

She said the Orange County coroner's office told her Schiltz's body had bruises and bleeding that were not self-inflicted. Hernandez said she also heard from witnesses that Schiltz had been involved in an altercation before the shooting and that he may have been "held down by a net" as part of the confrontation.

When contacted by the Daily Pilot on Friday, the coroner's office declined to discuss the case.

Though witnesses and police said Schiltz was chasing children and parents while armed with a bat and broken bottle, Hernandez said she doesn't believe violence was in her son's nature. She said Schiltz had said some threatening things in the past but had never hurt anyone.

She said he was a friendly person who loved the community and enjoyed hockey and baseball. He was at the park Thursday for a softball game, she said.

But according to a friend and court records, Schiltz had a history of abusing alcohol and threatening family members.

Tom Hester, who knew Schiltz for three years, said the otherwise mild-mannered man would become angry and violent when he was intoxicated.

Documents filed in Orange County Superior Court indicate Schiltz had a rocky relationship with his family.

Hernandez filed for a restraining order against him in February 2013, alleging that he threatened her, his father and his older brother with knives, baseball bats, pool sticks, pool balls, chairs and other items, according to court documents.

"In the past we received bruises and strains from trying to protect ourselves and/or trying to restrain him from hurting himself," Hernandez wrote in a statement attached to the filing. "He has mentioned that he would commit suicide on several occasions. He has also [threatened] to kill us all on several occasions and/or destroy property."

Hernandez wrote in court documents that her son drank heavily and used medical marijuana daily.

"As a family we have tried numerous options to help him with his addictions and abuses, but he declines our advice and/or suggestions," she wrote. "We are now at the point of seeking police protection because his abuses are escalating to levels that we can no longer accept or handle."

Hernandez said at Saturday's news conference that her son had disabilities, including mental issues, and that he self-medicated.

She said Schiltz never touched her and was "all bark and no bite."

In 2015, Schiltz pleaded guilty to making criminal threats against his mother and severing a telephone line, according to Superior Court records. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years' probation and ordered to attend 30 Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous classes. Court records indicate he never completed the classes, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was charged in June last year with a misdemeanor of drinking in public in violation of the Huntington Beach municipal code. A Huntington Beach police officer wrote in court documents that Schiltz was drinking King Cobra, a type of malt liquor, and yelling and challenging people at a park, according to court records.

But, Hernandez said Saturday, "I always had hope for my son, and it died when he died."

Staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter: @benbrazilpilot

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