The widow of an unarmed San Dimas man who was shot to death last month by Fountain Valley police officers after leading them on a chase in a stolen car is suing the city, claiming that the police used excessive force.
Attorney Bruce R. Farrar, who is representing the family of Cameron C. Rogers, said Monday that he has filed an administrative notice of claim--the first step in the legal process of filing a wrongful-death suit against the city.
The 27-year-old Rogers was killed July 25 after he reportedly stole a Chevrolet Blazer, led police through Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley at speeds exceeding 100 m.p.h. and rammed a wall in a Newport Beach neighborhood.
Reportedly fearing that Rogers was going to run over them, two Fountain Valley police officers opened fire, though the truck was wedged sideways on a narrow road, between the wall and a parked car.
"This is absolutely mind-boggling," Farrar said. "I'm pro cop, very pro cop. But this one just doesn't make any sense. I've never seen a stronger case (against police officers)."
Fountain Valley Police Capt. John Beddow said that police officials were not surprised by the family's intent to file the suit for an unspecified amount of money.
"We kind of expect that in these cases," Beddow said. He declined further comment, saying that the shooting is still under investigation by the Orange County district attorney's office.
Family members on Monday said Rogers was a born-again Christian but had been battling an ongoing addiction to cocaine that continued to control his life.
According to Rogers' sister, he had applied for a bed at a Santa Ana Salvation Army drug treatment program two days before the shooting but was told he could not get in for at least a week. "If he had gotten in there, it wouldn't have happened," said Kim Gandara, 32. "I know he had some (drug-related) problems. But why did they have to shoot him?"
Rogers and his wife Christa were married 10 months ago after they met at West Covina Calvary Chapel. She was not available for comment on the legal action. He also left a 2-month-old son.
Rogers' mother, Dawn Pepping, said she also believes that the police officers acted wrongly when they opened fire, hitting him 10 times. Rogers was left in the car more than four hours, and may have bled to death, Farrar said.
Pepping and Gandara said they hope Rogers' death will help others see the need for more drug rehabilitation centers for those who fall into crime because they have no control over their lives.
Rogers had been convicted on a statutory rape charge when he was 19. Last year he was convicted of possession of controlled substances and receiving stolen property, according to police records.
"It really breaks my heart because he had some special qualities," his mother said. "He was gentle-hearted and would not hurt anyone. He just had a real struggle" with drugs.