The family members of a man fatally shot San Bernardino Police officers have announced they will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the police force.
Lawyers working with the estate are pushing for a nine-figure payout, stating they hope the startling number would deter bad cops from abusing their power.
On Friday, Dec. 16, the estate of Robert Adams, 23, announced the $100 million federal lawsuit which alleges the SBPD violated the young man’s civil rights on July 16. Officers shot him multiple times as he ran away from them with a gun in his right hand. Despite video evidence to the contrary, his relatives and supporters contend the object in his hand was a cellphone, KTLA reports.
The official autopsy stated the young man was shot seven times in his back as he was running away from the police.
“Seven times, they shot him in the back,” attorney Ben Crump said, explaining the tragic parking lot incident to the press. “If that’s not an execution, I don’t know what is.”
The civil rights lawyers representing the family say the large award they are seeking would send a message to police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country that “Black Lives Matter.”
Crump’s co-counsel Brad Gage said even that amount is not enough to replace Adams’ contribution to his community.
“It will never be enough,” said Gage. “It can never be enough because Rob is gone.”
“The only way that you can get them to make real change is if they have to pay so much money,” Gage continued. “It’s too expensive for us to allow our officers to use improper and dangerous tactics and kill innocent people.”
The attorneys noted the shooting was caught on security cameras located around the immediate vicinity of where he was hit.
Police assert they arrived in an unmarked car after receiving complaints about the gambling spot on the 400 block of West Highland Street and reports of an armed man in the parking lot.
“As officers arrived, they spotted two males … one of them clearly displaying a gun in his waistband,” San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman said.
The cops said after Adams saw them in their cars, pulled out a loaded “gun from his waistband” before walking toward them.
“The officers exited the vehicle and gave Adams verbal commands,” said Goodman. “Officers briefly chased Adams, but he immediately ran toward two parked vehicles with the gun in his right hand. Officers briefly chased Adams but seeing that he had no outlet, they believed that he intended to use the vehicle as cover to shoot at them.”
“The officer saw Adams look over his left shoulder with the gun still in his right hand,” the officer said. “Fearing that bystanders or the officers’ lives were in danger, one of the officers fired his gun striking Adams. Officers quickly rendered medical aid and Adams was transported to a local hospital, where he died as a result of his injuries.”
Police bodycam video captures officers telling him he was going to be OK, as they rushed him to medical care.
The SBPD rep said, “A surveillance video was released on social media prior to our department having the opportunity to review all available information and evidence. The video which has been posted online fails to provide critical details or context as to what actually occurred during the incident.”
“Details like the specific location has a history of criminal activity including an armed robbery involving Adams as a suspect,” he explained, stating Adams “held several victims at gunpoint and was in possession of numerous firearms.”
The issue regarding Adams having a gun (versus a cellphone as the family suggests), according to the police, is “confirmed witness statements including the male that was with Adams.”
They also said they did not immediately engage Adams. According to the Critical Incident Debrief, they hoped he would have followed their commands.
“Adams has an extensive criminal history, was on felony probation for armed robbery, and had felony warrants. He had several other prior arrests, including a conviction for robbery.”
Police also assert Adams had a black 9mm with one round in the chamber and 10 rounds in the magazine. Officials said they were recovered at the scene.
“The men and women of the San Bernardino Police Department work tirelessly to protect our residents during a time when violent crime is on the rise,” Goodman said in July.
“It is unfortunate that our efforts to keep the community safe through proactive police work occasionally results in encounters with armed felons.”
While law enforcement notes Adams was an armed felon and an unlicensed security guard for the facility in earlier reports, they did not know his status before his death.
Still, the family vehemently disputes this narrative. They say Adams never had a gun in his hand. His mother, Tamika Deavila-King, said it was a cellphone and that up until the police started firing at him, she was talking to him on a call.
“We were on the phone. And he was in good spirits that day. He was celebrating about a car one of his cousins just bought, and he was laughing on the phone,” she said, according to ABC 7. “And then it just went blank, and somebody else clicked in on the line. And they told me that it was him being shot.”
The mom said she heard the gunshots that ultimately killed her son.
Surveillance video from local businesses shows Adams finishing up a conversation with another man standing nearby before drawing a gun from his waistband and walking toward the vehicle holding it at his right side. It also captures officers jumping out of the car with their guns drawn as he approached them, prompting him to run in the opposite direction.
Then, within 15 seconds of the cops exiting the car and as Adams ran between two parked cars to escape, the footage seems to show Adam being shot in his back.
The lawyers believe race played a part in his death, stating Adams was targeted by the SBPD because he was Black.
In a joint statement, the attorneys said, “It’s about pattern and practice that exists with police to use unnecessary, unjustifiable excessive use of force.”
Deavila-King gave context to who the young man was in life. She said he was a top student in school and always a pleasant person to be around.
“He was well loved. We all loved him so much and he loved us,” the mother said.
Details about the case are not being shared. The department states its policy on such matters is to wait until the investigation and case are concluded. One detail withheld from the public is who are the officers involved in the shooting.
To date, the SBPD has not released any of those cops’ names.