KILLING: Mother Disputes Police Account : Mother Disputes Escondido Police Report of Son’s Killing by Officer

Times Staff Writer

An Escondido mother, whose 17 year-old son was shot repeatedly and killed by a police officer after he allegedly stole a car, criticized the shooting and announced plans to file suit against the Police Department.

Arlene Gale McHale, flanked by her daughter Shannon, 15, and son Jasen, 14, said Saturday that Officer Martin Hewlett used unwarranted violence during a struggle Monday with her son Robert Scriven. According to police reports, Scriven was shot at least 11 times.

McHale disagrees with police accounts that her son fought with Hewlett and said she is in the process of retaining an attorney in order to file a wrongful-death suit against the department.

After reviewing preliminary accounts of the shooting, Police Chief Vince Jimno publicly defended Hewlett’s actions earlier this week.


Jimno said he has not questioned Hewlett’s handling of the situation, especially because the officer said he was pinned to the ground and was losing a struggle in which he was trying to regain control of his handgun.

Though McHale admitted her son had been a troubled youth and had numerous encounters with the authorities, she said he was not violent, and described him as someone who runs from danger, not one who confronts it.

“I don’t believe what the police say,” McHale said. “Bobby wouldn’t turn around and attack anybody. He just wouldn’t do it. He always runs away.”

McHale said her son was an accomplished athlete and participated in high school track. Scriven, who has fled from law enforcement officers before, often advised his younger brother to “always keep running . . . never stop running” if he should find himself in trouble.

“He was real fast,” Jasen said. “Just like that, he would be gone. The police would never know where he went. I don’t believe what the police say. I think they just plain shot him while he was running.”

The McHales’ belief that their son was wrongly killed differs greatly with the police officer’s version of the fatal encounter.

Hewlett had pursued Scriven into a brush and bamboo thicket about midnight after Scriven was seen driving through a stop sign in a stolen sports car, police said. After a short chase, Scriven jumped out of the car and fled into the darkness.

According to police reports, Hewlett caught up to the teen-ager and the fatal struggle began. Jimno said earlier this week that Hewlett “feared for his life” as he found himself pinned on his back.

But McHale adamantly disagrees with the portrayal of her son as a violent and dangerous thug. Scriven had been arrested several times before for stealing--he once stole his grandmother’s van and a neighbor’s motorcycle--and had a record of truancy at school. She added, however, that her son had never committed a violent crime.

Since Scriven’s release from the California Youth Authority in October, McHale said, he had tried hard to escape his criminal past.

“After he went back to school, he joined the football team and had a part-time job as a clerk at a grocery store,” said McHale, referring to an eight-month period last year when the family temporarily lived in Las Vegas.

“You can tell he was really trying to stay out of trouble,” McHale said.

But since the family’s recent return to Escondido, Scriven was not involved in any extracurricular activities.

McHale said that, like any mother, she was worried her son might spend time with the “wrong crowd.” But she added that Scriven was not one to succumb to peer pressure. “Bobby always did what he wanted to do.”

Authorities are awaiting the completion of a toxicology report that may confirm police suspicion that Scriven had been under the influence of drugs. Although McHale said her son may have used drugs in the past, she is confident he had not been using any the night he was killed.

Shannon, Scriven’s younger sister, who said she saw her brother 15 minutes before the chase began, also believes he was free of drugs. According to family members, Scriven had hopes of pursuing a career in computer programming, and Shannon added that recently her brother mentioned the possibility of becoming a police officer.

“He said he wanted to become a police officer,” Shannon said. “He thought he would be good because he could understand kids who had problems.”

Escondido police and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a joint investigation of the shooting, which will be reviewed by the district attorney’s office. The Escondido Police Department will also conduct an internal investigation, Jimno said.

But McHale is skeptical such investigations will uncover police wrongdoing and plans to file suit to “make sure that justice will be served.”

In a letter released to the press, McHale wrote, “I don’t want another running-scared, unarmed 17-year-old boy to die for not stopping at a stop sign or that the car he is driving might be stolen.”