By David M. Greenwald
Redwood City, CA – In the midst of a national discussion over policing, an incident that occurred in December of 2018 has triggered the widow of Kyle Hart to file a federal civil rights lawsuit after he was shot to death by Redwood City Police Officer Roman Gomez while fellow officer Leila Velez watched.
“This case shows how mentally impaired people are mistreated by police officers,” Attorney John Burris speaking on behalf of Kristin Hart said at a news conference on Wednesday. “In situations where family members call for help, because a loved one is suffering from a mental crisis, we’ve seen far too often that when the police arrive instead of deescalating the situation and taking control of the situation, they wind up killing the person and killing them under circumstances that were highly suspect.”
Burris noted that Kyle Hart was suffering, his wife communicated that, and “yet police did not have a plan—a plan to deescalate.”
Instead, he argued, “They just panicked.” He said, “They had no idea what to do. They were either not properly trained… or they ignored the training.”
Burris described them as young officers who did not act in any kind of way that suggested they had any training on what to do.
“That’s the tragedy of this situation,” he explained. “It would not have taken very much to calm this situation down.”
As Burris laid out during his talk, on the morning of December 10, 2018, the Redwood City Police Department received a call that Hart was cutting himself with a knife.
Kristin Hart during the press conference noted that she reported that Kyle was not harming anyone else but himself, and that she did not feel in danger nor did she feel that their small children were in danger.
“Kyle was a sick person in need of help, and rather than provide the help they are trained to give, the police killed him. Kyle deserved better; the citizens of Redwood City deserve better. Kyle will be forever missed by our family and his community.”
She described that he became “very ill, very quickly” and on the morning of December 10, “he was harming himself with a kitchen knife.
“He was not a threat to me, our two-year-old son, or our newborn daughter,” she explained.
Nevertheless, Officers Roman Gomez and Leila Velez showed up a few minutes later and within 29 seconds of arrival, the officers shot and killed Kyle Hart.
Burris called this a “needless” killing of “a loving family man in his own backyard when he was in need of help, not violence.”
According to their account, “When Officers Gomez and Velez arrived at the Harts’ home, they immediately charged into the backyard, without even so much as asking Kyle’s name. Beyond shouting at a man in the midst of a mental health crisis and attempting to Taser him while he walked in their direction, the officers made no attempts to de-escalate the situation.
“Instead, from behind a table that was between the officers and Kyle Hart, they shot him three times, killing him. Officer Gomez fired five times in total, missing Kyle twice—those two bullets ended up in the apartment building directly behind the Harts’ home.”
Burris said, “The family called the police to save Kyle’s life but not for them to take it. This case screams for de-escalation. The officers failed to follow generally accepted police practices when confronting a suicidal person by creating time and distance. The officers had no plan, consequently Mr. Hart is dead.”
Kristin Hart explained, “I called 911 as we were trained to do.”
But, “instead of giving us help, the police arrived with guns drawn and shot him in our backyard.”
She further said, “In the moments after the shooting, the officers had no regard for Kyle’s dignity or medical needs.”
She said during the press conference that they do not have a video of the shooting.
Kristin Hart said that she met her husband in college in 2005 and they were married in 2013. They were both teachers and she described him as a devoted father and family man.
“Kyle was the rare person who could strike up a conversation with anyone he met, from waiters at restaurants to the awkward tween at a family event. Kyle was kind and truly interested in the people around him. He was my best friend and a wonderful husband,” she said.
“We made the most of our summers, traveling and camping. He was down-to-earth and very caring. He loved to make me handmade pasta and we enjoyed listening to the summertime Friday night concerts in the town square. He was a truly devoted father, the kind that’s in the pool at baby swim lessons and a regular at the neighborhood park.”
She said, “He loved his life and did not intend to die that day.”
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