Parents File Expanded Civil Rights Lawsuit in Son’s Killing by Vallejo Police

Jeremiah Moore. (Courtesy, Eugene and Lisa Moore)
Jeremiah Moore. (Courtesy, Eugene and Lisa Moore)

The parents of Jeremiah Moore, a man shot and killed by Vallejo police 18 months ago, have filed an amended civil rights lawsuit that accuses the Vallejo Police Department of a pattern of shooting non-threatening individuals and those with disabilities.

According to his parents, Eugene and Lisa Moore of Santa Rosa, Jeremiah had an autism spectrum disorder originally diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome.

Their expanded complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento Tuesday, says that prior to Moore’s shooting in October 2012, Vallejo police “had shot other individuals who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious injury to anyone” and “other victims of such shootings were also disabled and/or mentally incapacitated at the time.”

The suit alleges that such shootings were the result of “provocative and unlawful conduct” by Vallejo police officers, and that police department supervisors, including Police Chief Joseph Kreins, were aware the shootings were unlawful.

Vallejo police were involved in 10 shootings in 2012, six of them fatal.

The suit alleges violations of Moore’s rights under the U.S. and state constitutions; failure by police department and city leaders to deter officers from using excessive force in violation of suspects’ and residents’ civil rights; violation of a federal ban on discrimination against the disabled; assault and battery; and negligence.

Police were called to Moore’s Vallejo home on Oct. 21, 2012, after neighbors reported a prolonged disturbance at his residence at 2504 Alameda St. Neighbors said Moore and a roommate, Jason Jessie, had broken windows in the residence and had run naked through their yard as they smashed windows on their vehicles outside. Police said they received multiple calls about the disturbance, and at least one neighbor told KQED he called 911 after hearing Moore and Jessie talk about setting their house on fire.

Police reported afterward that they shot Moore after he threatened an officer with a rifle. Today’s amended federal complaint says police confronted a naked and unarmed Moore outside his home and shot him when he failed to comply promptly with commands to get on the ground.

Moore “suffered from an autism spectrum disorder which caused him to move his hands and arms when he was nervous,” the suit says. “Moore had not made any movement or gesture under the circumstances that a reasonable officer would perceive as posing an immediate threat to justify the use of deadly force.”

The amended filing names a Vallejo Police Department officer, Sean Kenney, as one of those who fatally shot Moore. If true, it would have been the second fatal shooting involving Kenney in less than two months.

Kenney and Dustin Joseph, a fellow Vallejo officer, fired 27 rounds into a parked car about seven weeks before the Moore shooting, killing Mario Romero and injuring Joseph Johnson. A Solano County District Attorney’s investigation found that shooting was justified, as did the U.S. Attorney’s Office for California’s Eastern District. The investigation found Romero had a “replica firearm” and pills later determined to be methamphetamine.

In a KQED investigation published earlier this month — “The Killing of Jeremiah Moore” — a neighbor who says he witnessed the shooting said Moore was standing naked in his doorway, waiving his hands nervously when he was shot. Neither police nor Solano County District Attorney’s investigators had interviewed the neighbor, Jaime Alvarado, until Monday — more than a year and a half after he says he first tried to tell his story to investigators.

Oakland attorney Michael Haddad, who filed Tuesday’s amended complaint on behalf of Eugene and Lisa Moore, said that witness accounts suggest police invented their account of the Moore shooting.

“We were able to confirm that in fact, the version of the shooting given by the police was not true, according to eyewitnesses that we talked to,” Haddad said. “Not only does that mean that the use of deadly force was unjustified and illegal, but it raises the question that the Vallejo police may be deliberately making a false alibi for this shooting. That’s something that we’re definitely going to explore in this case.”

The Vallejo City Attorney’s Office, which had moved to dismiss the parents’ original complaint, did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the amended complaint.

Read the full complaint below.

Jeremiah Moore First Amended Complaint Filed 04.29.14

Author

Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a news reporter focused on criminal justice policy, policing and legal issues. He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at community college in San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Emslie contributed to several Bay Area newspapers and online news outlets before joining KQED in 2013. He loves multimedia reporting, publishing source documents and transparency. He can be reached at aemslie@kqed.org and followed via @SFNewsReporter.

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