The family of a BB gun-toting man shot to death by Anaheim police in January has filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit, according to court documents.
Five Anaheim SWAT officers took Bernie Cervantes "Chino" Villegas down negligently and without provocation Jan. 7 outside an apartment complex, according to the civil complaint filed Oct. 15 in Orange County Superior Court.
The suit also alleges negligent hiring and deprivation of civil rights.
According to the police account at the time, the 36-year-old father of two was carrying a BB rifle with a wooden stock through the West Ball Road apartment complex late on a Saturday night, producing several calls to police from alarmed residents.
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Villegas' father reportedly told the Associated Press at the time that his son made a huge mistake that night, but the family's suit essentially blames the SWAT officers for taking a shoot first, ask questions later approach to the incident, as they allegedly swung around a corner and opened fire on the man standing in a parking lot talking with friends. Villegas posed no threat to the officers, who gave no commands or warnings, according to the suit.
But that's now how the shooting was portrayed in the official police report, which claimed Villegas waved or pointed what in the dark of night appeared to be a shotgun at the officers, threatening them. The family lawsuit claims that was "a blatantly false story."
the lawsuit said.
The BB gun Villegas was showing off to friends, with the stock pointed upward and not at officers, was a present for his 12-year-old son, according to the complaint. Villegas also left behind a 14-year-old daughter.