Tuesday Jul 14 2009
Han family considering legal action
By: Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent
Cops cleared in Easter morning shooting
The family of a 23-year-old Folsom man shot by police officers on Easter morning is considering taking legal action, according to their attorney. Having completed its own investigation, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office has cleared two Folsom cops in the fatal shooting. In a press release, the D.A.’s office said the shooting was “justified.” Now, the family is considering taking legal action against the agency they called for help. On April 12, Sgt. Ron Peterson, Officer Paul Barber and another unidentified officer were called to a Folsom residence, where they confronted Joseph Han. The young man’s family had contacted the Folsom Police Department, claiming that Han had been acting strangely and refusing to eat or sleep for more than three days. When the three officers confronted Han, he had a knife. An altercation followed, during which all three officers attempted to Taser Han. During the altercation, Han refused to drop the knife, according to the officers, and Peterson and Barber shot him. Han was transported to a hospital, where he later died from his wounds. Since then, the shooting has been investigated by the Folsom Police Department, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office and the D.A.’s office. Folsom police conducted two investigations — administrative and criminal. The D.A. reviewed evidence ranging from crime scene video and photos, 911 calls and interviews conducted during its investigation. Based upon its findings, the D.A. ruled that the two officers were cleared of criminal liability. According to Sgt. Rick Hillman, of the Folsom Police Department, the D.A.’s findings were consistent with those found during the department’s investigations. “The culmination of these four investigations has provided much insight into the unusual circumstances which led to this tragic event,” Hillman said. “While many of the questions have been answered, we may never know all the factors which created the unexplainable behavior the Han family described and our officers observed.” In the media release, Hillman extended the department’s condolences to Han’s family and friends. The Han family hired Oakland attorney, John Burris, to represent them. According to his website, Burris handles cases involving civil rights violations, ranging form police brutality to misconduct by law enforcement officers. “While the D.A.’s office (and others) have cleared these two officers of criminal liability,” Burris said in a phone interview, “there are some questions that need to answered.” Burris said he’s not ruling out any possible civil action but it’s not up to him. “I have to meet with (the Han family) to discuss options,” he said. If the Han family decides to pursue civil litigation against the officers, then “I’ll do what I can for them,” he said.