Jury clears Huntington Beach officers accused of negligence in 2017 fatal shooting
An Orange County Superior Court jury ruled this week in favor of the police officers who fatally shot 29-year-old Steven Schiltz in Huntington Beach in 2017.
The verdict Wednesday ends a long legal battle that began with a $20-million federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Schiltz’s mother, Angela Hernandez, in which she alleged negligence, battery, wrongful death, excessive force and inadequate training of the police officers who shot and killed her son.
The lawsuit named both the city and the officers as defendants.
On March 9, 2017, Huntington Beach Police Officers Trevor Jackson and Casey Thomas responded to emergency calls about a man with a baseball bat and a broken bottle hitting trees and chasing people. Schiltz was holding a sharpened stick, court records show, and police said they attempted to talk with him. Schiltz reportedly refused, then ran around the soccer field.
A few people chased Schiltz around the field until officers told them to stop. He ignored officers’ commands to drop the stick, the city said, and approached a woman and her 6-year-old son before the officers fired at least three shots.
When it appeared that he was about to strike the woman, the two officers fired on him again.
An L.A. County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot an unarmed 24-year-old man in 2019 has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors said.
Schiltz was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hernandez’s lawsuit said Schiltz was mentally ill and denied allegations that he posed any immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury at the time of the shooting. It also argued that officers did not provide a warning that they were prepared to use deadly force and failed to provide prompt medical care to Schiltz, the basis of the lawsuit’s negligence claims.
The lawsuit was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in August 2018 but was later appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The three-judge federal appeals panel partly overturned Guilford’s summary judgment in 2019, finding there was enough evidence to justify a trial on the claims of battery and negligence.
Those two claims were the focus of the recent trial in state court.
“I am obviously very happy with the jury verdict. I believe they absolutely got it right and they clearly saw our officers were defending the life of a mother and child in this incident,” said Huntington Beach City Atty. Michael Gates, who represented the officers. “I also believe that our Huntington Beach Police Department and our officers did the right thing.”
Attorney Dale Galipo, who represented Hernandez, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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