REDWOOD CITY (BCN) – The wife of a man who was killed by a Redwood City police officer in 2018 after her husband attempted suicide filed a lawsuit against Redwood City and the officers involved in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday.
According to police, on December 20, 2018, officers reacted to a house on 400 block of Lincoln Avenue in Redwood City and met Kyle Hart in the back yard of the house, armed with a butcher’s knife.
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Hart allegedly ran towards officers who were still holding the knife, and although Officer Leila Velez used a taser on him, it was ineffective. Then Officer Roman Gomez shot Hart.
Hart, who had already suffered self-inflicted wounds on his arms and neck, was taken to hospital, where he later died.
According to John Burris, attorney for Kyle Hart’s wife Kristin Hart, the entire police reaction took just 29 seconds.
“This is a situation in which Mr. Hart suffered. His wife had reported this and the police had no plan to de-escalate. As soon as they saw Mr. Hart, they actually killed him, ”Burris said. “Time, distance, and re-evaluation could have been done and none of it was. Instead it was ‘fools rush in’. “
Kristin Hart said that her husband, a native Redwood City American and a teacher at Frank S. Greene Middle School in Palo Alto, recently became scared and was on medication, even though he has not had any past violence.
Kristin Hart held back tears and described Kyle Hart as a kind, loving teacher and father of two.
“He loved his life and had no intention of dying that day. I asked 911 for help as we are trained to do it. Instead of helping, the police came with guns drawn and shot him in our back yard, ”she said. “I don’t know who you thought were there to serve and protect that day, but it wasn’t my family.”
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In addition to Redwood City, the lawsuit also named Gomez and Velez as defendants, as well as Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland.
The suit claims that both Gomez and Velez failed to provide medical care to Kyle Hart after the shooting and were handcuffed when he was fatally gunshot when the paramedics arrived.
Although Gomez was initially placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, criminal charges were never brought against Gomez and Velez, and both remain employed by the Redwood City Police Department.
The action is aimed at unspecified damages.
Kristin Hart said she filed the lawsuit after failing to reach an agreement with Redwood City officials about policy changes.
“What I would like to see is a comprehensive approach to how the Redwood City Police Department respond to a person in a mental crisis. The right equipment and training are part of it and must be based on a culture that really values everyone, ”said Kristin Hart.
In a statement, Redwood City officials said while they were unable to comment on active litigation, they have since partnered with San Mateo County Behavior and Recovery Services to set up a pilot program to deal with people in mental health crisis.
“The loss of life is always tragic, as is the case with the death of Mr. Hart. City officials have appreciated the opportunity to work with the Hart family in the past and hear their recommendations on police policies, ”Redwood City officials said.
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