The family of a man fatally shot by a Vallejo police officer last month filed a federal lawsuit against the city Tuesday and demanded the release of video from the officer's body camera.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and names the city and its police department as defendants. It alleges that Officer Ryan McMahon shot Ronell Foster in the back on Feb. 13 and lied about a skirmish that preceded the shooting.
Police have said they approached Foster in the course of an investigation. Family attorney John Burris says that Foster had a "discussion" with his girlfriend earlier that day that could have prompted the stop, but declined to give more details about a possible dispute, or whether she may have called the police.
Regardless, says Burris, police didn't have a legal reason to follow the unarmed father of two. A witness never saw him struggle with McMahon before the officer opened fire, according to the lawsuit.
Burris says the Vallejo police have ignored requests to review body-camera footage of the shooting.
"We find that very troubling because we've been in other cases where the police feel their conduct was really justified and they have readily given up the video," says Burris, "but not in this case."
Burris says he currently has more than a half a dozen wrongful death and unlawful use-of-force cases pending against the Vallejo Police Department.
Foster's mother, Paula McGowan, says she wants to know why police took the life of her only son, whom her family affectionately called "Catdaddy."
"I will not rest until I get justice for my son. No justice, no sleep," says McGowan.
Sidney Alvin Polk says his nephew, a father of two young children, was a family man who did "not deserve to die like a dog in the street'.
"It's time that Vallejo police be held accountable for the things that they're doing to these young men in these streets. They're beating people, and they're shooting people, and nobody has been held accountable for this," says Polk. "This has got to stop. We need transparency. Release the body-camera footage.'
Vallejo Police Chief Andrew Bidou said in a written statement Wednesday that the department "will be working to meet with the Foster family so they can view the body camera footage of the incident."
He said the body-camera video will "reveal a different story" than the version of events described by the family's attorneys.
Officials have said McMahon shot Foster after the 33-year-old attacked the officer with a flashlight during a "violent physical struggle" following a brief pursuit. McMahon opened fire after a Taser proved ineffective in subduing Foster, the Police Department said last month.
Foster was riding his bike when he stopped to hang out with some friends, according to the complaint filed Tuesday. Shortly after riding away, McMahon and an unidentified second officer began to follow Foster and that's when he got off his bike and started running, the lawsuit says.
McMahon chased Foster into a residential alley and struck him on the head with a flashlight and then used a Taser on the man, the lawsuit says. When Foster again tried to flee over a fence, the officer fatally shot Foster in the back and the back of the head, the complaint says.
"Now, Mr. Foster's son and daughter will have to grow up without their father because Officer McMahon decided to play judge, jury and executioner on the streets of Vallejo," Burris said in a statement.
This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.