Family of slain man files suit
The family of a man who got into a fatal struggle with officers after they rescued him from San Diego Bay said Friday that they are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking punitive damages against the officer who shot him.
San Diego Harbor Police reported that Steven Hirschfield, 37, fought with officers on a patrol boat after voluntarily jumping 30 feet from a cruise ship last Saturday. But his family disputes the police account and vows to conduct its own investigation.
“The police categorically fabricated how the shooting occurred to justify what would otherwise be an unjustified shooting,” said Brian Claypool, the attorney representing Hirschfield’s family.
Hirschfield, a performer and bodybuilder who lived in West Hollywood, had been hired to dance aboard the Circuit Daze harbor cruise, attended by as many as 900 people as part of the weekend’s gay pride celebrations.
About an hour into the cruise, crew members called police to report a man overboard.
Hirschfield began fighting with officers as soon as he was pulled aboard the patrol boat, police said. Hirschfield grabbed one officer’s Taser gun and struck him in the face with it before trying to seize the officer’s handgun, police said. At that point, another officer shot Hirschfield.
Hirschfield was brought to a nearby dock, where paramedics pronounced him dead, authorities said.
The San Diego County medical examiner reported that Hirschfield died from a single gunshot wound to the chest and released no additional details. Toxicology reports were pending.
The wounded officer, 20-year veteran Clyde Williams, was treated at a hospital for injuries to his face and leg and released Sunday, officials said. He and Wayne Schmidt, the officer who fired the fatal shot, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.