Family sues city after son’s suicide


Seventeen-year-old Matthew Cline, who committed suicide in July, could have been saved if the Huntington Beach Police Department had acted differently, Cline’s parents allege in a Nov. 13 legal complaint.

Police failed to warn the family when they learned of an online posting by Matthew in which he threatened to kill himself, according to an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit filed by his parents, William and Kathleen Cline, accusing the city of wrongful death and negligence.

Matthew, a varsity football player entering his senior year at Liberty Christian High School, used a website and mobile app called iFunny, which typically features funny images, to warn of his death the day before he shot himself in the head, according to the complaint.


“This will be my last post on iFunny as I will be committing suicide tonight,” his post read, in part, as outlined in the court documents.

Ana Gutierrez of Los Banos saw the post and found Matthew’s Facebook page, which indicated Huntington Beach as his home. The complaint details that she called the police, who said they would handle the issue.

Although Gutierrez sent a screenshot of the post to police, they could not find it on iFunny, according to a police incident report included in the complaint. They also failed to find a Facebook account believed to be Matthew’s.

Police did attempt several times to call the telephone number listed in a database for a Matthew Cline in Huntington Beach, the incident report continues, but the family alleges in the complaint that no calls were made or received.

Officers did not visit the home listed for that person, citing an inability to determine if the address matched the person who made the post — “a blatant, bad-faith and intentional misrepresentation of fact,” according to the complaint.

Matthew committed suicide July 17, when his mom was at the gym, according to the documents. Each parent is suing the city individually, seeking damages for emotional distress caused to the family and the value of Matthew’s projected income over his lifetime.

“It’s not the police’s responsibility to keep up with postings, and they have no duty to act in terms of finding postings and then going out and warning about them,” said Douglas Ames, the parents’ lawyer, “but in this case, they were specifically notified about this boy’s posting.”

Ames also argued that the police had promised Gutierrez when she called that they would handle the situation, adding to what the lawyer believed to be a legal responsibility for authorities to warn the family.

Police Department spokesman Mitch O’Brien did not respond for comment Tuesday.