Lafayette: Man Claims Broom Led to Him Being Shot by Police
By Matthias Gafni
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 09/26/2013 03:41:42 PM PDT
A 29-year-old software engineer shot three times by Lafayette police in April after charging at two officers filed a claim Thursday alleging those officers engaged in excessive force against him, according to the document.
Michael Schock, who survived the April shooting, filed the claim against the city of Lafayette, its police department, the two officers and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office, which contracts police services to the affluent city. Schock, a UC Berkeley graduate who has returned to work, is out of custody awaiting a Nov. 4 preliminary hearing on charges he obstructed an officer, exhibited a deadly weapon and made criminal threats during the April 2 encounter.
The claim asserts Schock was armed with only a broom.
"They're not supposed to shoot people holding brooms, but what makes it worse is he didn't have a broom but for a few seconds," said Schock's attorney Stan Casper, who says his client was "unarmed" when shot.
Calls and emails to Lafayette police and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office were not immediately returned Thursday.
The incident began around 7 a.m. April 2 when Schock -- who has a history of emotional problems, Casper said -- was having a "psychotic break" after hearing voices when he woke up. He began tossing his belongings out of his second-story bedroom window at 3425 Woodview Dr. on a quiet cul-de-sac.
His family called 911, but hung up before speaking to anyone once they saw that Schock had calmed down, Casper said.
Lafayette police officers Steve Harrison and Michael Marshall responded to the house as required for 911 hang-ups. As they arrived at the property, the officers saw Schock standing at the front door with a "small pocket knife" in his hand, before he ran inside the house, shutting the door, according to the claim.
Schock's brother-in-law took the knife from him and returned outside, placing the knife down on the house steps so the officers could see "that no one had the knife," the claim alleges. The officers began patting the brother-in-law down, Casper said.
"Because of his disability, Schock believed his brother-in-law was being attacked by the police," the claim alleged.
Schock confronted the officers; Harrison tried unsuccessfully to taser him, leading Schock to grab a kitchen broom. He charged the officers with the broom and then dropped it, the claim alleges.
Casper related that at that point, in the police report, officer Marshall tells investigators: "Holy crap, we are cops. We're not supposed to run from these people. But a guy with a knife and broom is right at you."
As Schock continued toward the officers, Harrison tasered him again and then shot him with his service weapon twice in the abdomen and once in the leg, the claim alleges. At no time did the officers instruct Schock that he was being arrested, nor did he resist any arrest, the claim continues.
Schock's attorney said police quickly created a story that made it seem Schock was shot while threatening police with a dangerous weapon. A police news release said Schock, shortly before being shot, "picked up a blunt object and quickly advanced on the officers in a threatening manner."
Referring to evidence photos showing a red broom "very far away" from where Schock was shot, Casper said his client was "unarmed" when police fired.
"There's no legal justification for tasering or shooting a man who's doing this in his own home under these circumstances," Casper said. "There's no justification for using deadly force or tasering when someone questions legal authority."
The claim alleges Schock is being "unjustly prosecuted" for the three charges. Meanwhile, Casper said, Schock continues working at his Pleasanton office and just recently began to walk unassisted again.
The April shooting was the first officer-involved shooting in Lafayette in recent history.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.