Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms said Friday allegations made in a claim filed by attorneys representing the Shergill family are untrue, and that the legal system must run its course before anyone makes assumptions about the ongoing investigation into the Jan. 25 shooting death of Parminder Singh Shergill.
“The claims that we are covering things up, or that silence is an admission of guilt in this incident are simply untrue, and I take exception to those remarks,” Helms said Friday morning.
Mark Merin, a Sacramento civil rights attorney, filed a claim against the City of Lodi on Thursday night on behalf of the Shergill family, stating essential evidence in the case has not been released in a timely manner.
The claim states Shergill’s family has been seeking access to autopsy results, toxicology reports, reports of investigating officers, witness statements and photographs of the scene. The claim further states Shergill’s personal property, including a diary, were taken from the home shortly after the incident and have yet to be returned to the family.
“I am disturbed not only by the circumstances of Parminder’s death, but by the refusal of the Lodi City Police Department and San Joaquin County District Attorney to release information, which the family has a right to receive, regarding this case. The public is not served by the city’s lack of transparency in this very important matter,” Merin wrote in a letter accompanying the claim.
Merin further stated, “The withholding of information related to the circumstances of Parminder’s death raises the public question as to whether the City is attempting to suppress the truth, which will eventually be discovered through the legal process.”
Helms said Friday that the Lodi Police Department, San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, San Joaquin County Sheriff ’s Coroner and the California Department of Justice are conducting an investigation that could take months to complete.
“When the investigation is complete, the district attorney will make a judgment as to whether or not the officers’ conduct was within the boundaries of the law,” Helms said. “To pre-judge what that ruling will be is inappropriate at this time.”
On Jan. 25, Cpl. Scott Bratton and Officer Adam Lockie contacted Shergill, 43, on the 00 block of Elderica Way while responding to a disturbance call at his home, according to Lodi Police Lt. Sierra Brucia. The police department has said Shergill was carrying a knife, and that he lunged at the officers, forcing them to open fire.
Helms said the department expected litigation, as that is normal with officer-involved shootings.
However, he said the real
issue at the heart of the case is interaction with those with mental health issues, especially military veterans.
Shergill was a Gulf War veteran whose family had contacted Lodi police in the past to help him obtain medical assistance for post traumatic stress disorder. The family said at a Jan. 31 candlelight vigil that police had been called on Jan. 25 for the same reason.
“We’ve somehow lost the focus of the true issue here,” Helms said. “This individual was experiencing severe post traumatic stress issues. He attacked police officers with a knife, and the officers had
to protect themselves.” Merin and attorney Jack Johal, Shergill’s cousin, said they have interviewed several witnesses who say Shergill never lunged at or threatened officers. Witnesses said that Bratton and Lockie fired as many as 14 shots from 10 to 20 feet away, according to Merin
“From the information dis-
covered by the family’s attorney and his investigator, it appears that Parminder’s death is an unjustified killing and that the officers involved should be prosecuted,” the claim states. “Parminder’s mother, Sukhwinder Kaur, his family, and the public have a right to know what alleged evidence
supports the Police Department’s self-serving statements, which directly conflict with eyewitness reports, that Parminder charged the officers with a knife and the officers had no choice but to kill him.”
Merin and Johal said that according to their investigation, the shooting “violated Parminder’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from excessive force and violated his substantive due process rights to life and liberty. Parminder’s family was also deprived of their familial rights and suffered mental and emotional distress as a result of the killing of this gentle, kind, friendly, disabled veteran.”
The claim does not request that damages be paid. Instead, the family and their attorney say they are using the legal process to gain access to
information they believe should already have been released.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.