Case Against Woodland Police Set for Late April, but Could Be Dismissed Due to Qualified Immunity in Barrera Death

Marissa Barrera speaks in July 2021 with Michael Barrera’s daughter

By Robert J. Hansen

A civil lawsuit filed against Woodland police officers by the family of Michael Barrera who was killed by police in 2017 is set for trial in late April according to Marissa Barrera, Michael’s sister.

The civil lawsuit comes years after Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Resig did not file criminal charges against the officers claiming there was insufficient evidence showing force was the cause of Barrera’s death.

Marissa Barrera says there is a hearing on April 1 where the judge is to make a ruling on whether the case will be dismissed on grounds of qualified immunity.

“We’re waiting to see what the judge rules before we know whether there’s going to be a trial,” Barrera said.

The five officers involved with Barrera’s death were Parveen Lal, Hannah Gray, Thomas Davis, David Krause and Richard Wright.

Three of the officers, Richard Wright and Parveen Lal, as well as Sergeant Davis who is now a lieutenant, are still with the Woodland Police Department.

Officer Hannah Grey works at Elk Grove PD as a public information officer and Sergeant Dave Krause has since retired.

The autopsy report ruled Michael Barrera’s death was from sudden death with methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement, yet the stated the “manner of death was classified as Undetermined.”

Then-attorney for the Barrera family, Sacramento civil rights Attorney Stewart Katz, said he was surprised by the vagueness of the report.

“I don’t know what the cause of death was, but it’s also consistent with a cover up in terms of the coroner’s report,” Katz told the Vanguard in 2017.

Reisig’s office concluded there was insufficient evidence that the officers’ use of force was unreasonable.

This is a glaring contradiction to his comments regarding the George Floyd murder and the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin only a few years later.

“(It was) the absolute right result. It was such a horrific depraved heart crime. In my mind, there was never any other option than a conviction for murder. Other than that, this reminds me that, while our system in the United States isn’t perfect, the criminal justice system, it is the best in the world and it does work, I’m grateful that it did [in] this situation,” Reisig said.

George Floyd’s autopsy report indicated that Floyd too had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. However, drugs were not listed as a cause of his death.

Shortly after Floyd’s murder, the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), which Reisig is now the President of, stated that there is nothing more central to our principles as district attorneys than the sanctity and uniqueness of human life and their duty and privilege to stand with the voiceless in the pursuit of justice.

“As a poignant reminder of his senseless loss, we will continue our important work, alongside other leaders, to bring an end to the racial inequity, bigotry, and racism that has demeaned our justice system. As leaders in our communities and in honor of the legacy of George Floyd, our continued commitment is unwavering,” Nancy O’Malley, then-CDAA president, said in the statement.

California’s district attorneys said they stand united in their condemnation of unchecked and cruel brutality.

Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution said, “The fact that there was ever a doubt about conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence is a sad indictment of our criminal legal system. Nor does the outcome in this case in any way diminish the urgent need for systemic change to policing in America.”

Marisa Barrera has seen video and heard audio from that day and said that Michael’s last words were, “I can’t breathe.”

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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