A federal lawsuit filed Monday against two Bakersfield Police officers alleges they used excessive force in "one of the most devastating and awful" cases attorney John L. Burris said he's ever worked.
The two officers practiced poor judgment, used poor tactics and rushed to judgment, Burris said during a press conference held Tuesday morning in front of the federal courthouse in Bakersfield.
"This is a situation where it was unnecessary to 'shoot to kill' these two young people," Burris said. "No officer's life was in immediate danger, and nobody else's life was in immediate danger."
Burris' office represents Anthony Markis Ramirez and Marinah Renae Segura, both 23, who were shot by Bakersfield Police officers. The lawsuit is filed against the city of Bakersfield and Bakersfield Police Officers Ryan McWilliams and Isaac Aleman in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California.
Burris is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for his clients.
Both officers are on modified duty and their work is confined to BPD buildings pending the outcome of an investigation by BPD's Critical Incident Review Board, said Sgt. Nathan McCauley, a spokesman for the department.
He referred additional questions to the City Attorney's Office, which did not respond.
The lawsuit stems from the Feb. 11 shooting in the 2500 block of Kentucky Street in east Bakersfield, during which Ramirez and Segura were shot at while inside a car.
Ramirez and Segura were suspected of a carjacking that occurred earlier in the day, according to both the BPD and the lawsuit.
Ramirez and Segura were being surveilled by McWilliams and Aleman, and they were seen getting inside a gray Mustang that was reported missing. McWilliams and Aleman drove up and blocked the Mustang with an unmarked Toyota, the lawsuit states. They then "rushed" Ramirez and Segura "with firearms (and) wearing plain clothes," the lawsuit alleges. Ramirez and Segura did not know at the time McWilliams and Aleman were Bakersfield Police officers, the lawsuit states.
Nearly 15 rounds were fired into the car by the officers "without cause or justification," the lawsuit alleges. Ramirez was shot three times in the back and once in his side. He is now paralyzed from his armpits down and will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, the lawsuit states. Segura was also shot once in the arm. Both Segura and Ramirez continue to suffer from psychological distress and injury as a result of the shooting, the lawsuit states.
Ramirez and Segura are both charged with multiple felonies relating to the incident and are in custody at the Kern County Jail pending court proceedings.
"We understand that our clients have accusations that have been lodged against them," said attorney DeWitt Lacy, who is also representing Ramirez and Segura. "And whether or not those will be found truthful is a matter to be determined in criminal courts, which is what law enforcement is supposed to do. It's supposed to bring them to justice, not to exact vengeance, which is what they did."
Mark Ramirez, Anthony Ramirez's father, expressed his discontent with BPD's actions.
"What the police officers did, it ain't right," Mark Ramirez said. "Now he's paraplegic and incarcerated. I just want justice for my son."