The parents of a Tucson man killed by a police sharpshooter May 12 have sued the city, the former police chief and the officer who shot Christopher Burdon after police said he “did not heed oral commands to put down his weapon.”
Burdon, 39, a lifelong insulin-dependent diabetic, was suffering from hypoglycemia, his family said at the time, and was unable to respond to police commands.
The symptoms can make a diabetic appear drunk or under the influence of drugs. The family learned of his death watching local TV news.
Burdon had only nicotine and caffeine in his system, an autopsy by the Pima County medical examiner revealed.
Burdon was shot in the head, arm and chest and had multiple skull fractures from bullets fired by Officer Luis Campos, an eight-year veteran of the Police Department. The department’s internal review of the shooting has not been made public.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court this week, former police chief Richard Miranda, now an assistant city manager, is named because he was the supervisory officer “responsible for the conduct, training and supervision of police officers under his charge.”
He is also named for “his failure to properly train police officers in the appropriate methods of detaining and arresting citizens who are temporarily disoriented and confused as a result of physical illness,” according to the lawsuit.
The city was sued as “the ultimate policymaker for the city of Tucson Police Department.”
City Attorney Mike Rankin was attending a seminar Wednesday and did not return a call for comment.
Attorney Robert L. Murray, who is handling the civil case for Thomas and Janet Burdon, said the Police Department “has long been aware that there is a high probability that their officers may come into contact with citizens who are displaying actions demonstrating that they are either mentally ill, delusional and disoriented or are otherwise incapacitated as a result of some disease or physical ailment.”
The suit says the Police Department “did not adequately train or staff the department with any qualified officers to respond to mental health encounters or encounters with citizens experiencing delusional episodes or those who were confused or disoriented as a result of physical illness.”
The suit also says police were “not armed with sufficient non-lethal use of force equipment to deal with Chris Burdon.”
The suit cites violations of Burdon’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable seizure of his person and of his 14th Amendment right “to be free of excessive and unjustified force” and to be provided substantive due process.
Burdon was suffering from a lack of sleep and low glucose level, and his family believes he fired a handgun three times into the air as a signal for help.
No one was hit by the shots.
Campos shot Burdon after he didn’t follow orders to put down the gun.
Police didn’t know he had removed the clip from his gun and laid it on the floor of his sandrail before falling to the ground nearby, in a dirt lot near Grant Road and Oracle Road.
Police were responding to a 911 call about a man firing a gun in the area.