The family of a blind man fatally shot by Orange County sheriff’s deputies in his Laguna Woods home sued the department and officers Wednesday for his wrongful death.
Deputies shot Paul Mono, a 65-year-old retired cartoonist and screenwriter, after responding to reports of him acting erratically and threatening to shoot a contractor working on his condominium in February 2018.
In declining to file criminal charges against the deputies, the Orange County district attorney’s office said Mono behaved in a belligerent manner that included gesturing toward deputies with his middle finger and pointing his bare behind at them through a window. When he grabbed a gun from a sofa, the deputies fired multiple times, fearing for their lives and that of Mono’s wife, prosecutors said.
But the federal lawsuit filed by the cartoonist’s widow and daughters said the five deputies who responded to the 911 call mishandled the situation and escalated it to the deadly incident. They said Mono was suffering a mental crisis because of the increasing loss of his vision.
Mono was meeting with a real estate agent inside the home to receive plans of the contractor’s work because he and his wife had decided to move elsewhere. The contractor was waiting outside when Mono became infuriated over what he believed to be the wrong plans.
He retrieved an antique revolver and began waving it around. The real estate agent persuaded him to put it down and did not believe it was loaded, according to the suit. But the contractor outside called 911 after hearing that Mono had a gun.
The suit alleges that instead of taking the time to assess the situation, the deputies rushed into the home with “guns already drawn” and ignored the presence of witnesses who could have explained that Mono was blind and not dangerous.
Mono, according to the suit, slid open one of the living room windows a few inches and shouted, “What you going to do, shoot a blind man?” as part of profanity-laden comments. The deputies, according to the suit, “did not attempt to de-escalate the situation.” They shot through the windows and doors 14 times, hitting Mono six times and narrowly missing his wife, the suit said. Several of the rounds entered a neighbor’s home.
“If it was not so horrific they would be the Keystone Kops,” said Dan Stormer, one of the family’s attorneys. “This was a police-created killing.
“The Sheriff’s Department is supposed to train its deputies in how to deal with people experiencing mental crises and de-escalate situations like this,” he added. “They screwed up at every point.”
Mono’s deteriorating sight basically left him with nothing but tunnel vision and took a toll on his mental state, Stormer said.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.