Various media sites are reporting that surveillance video released today shows an SUV driven by Marine Sgt. Manuel Levi "Manny" Loggins "crashed" through gates at San Clemente High School early Feb. 7--and moments before he was shot to death by an Orange County sheriff's deputy. But the Loggins family attorney suing the County of Orange and Orange County Sheriff's Department for alleged wrongful death says that all he sees in the grainy footage is a minor traffic accident.
Brian Dunn of the Cochran Firm in Los Angeles appeared this afternoon on CNN, whose anchor Brooke Baldwin explained the cable news network was still "processing" the 31 minutes of footage from a camera mounted at San Clemente High School.
Asked what Loggins and his daughters, ages 9 and 14, were doing at the high school between 4 and 5 a.m., Dunn explained the family is "very religious," that the Marine and his daughters made a "daily ritual" out of their "prayer walk" around the campus track, and that the time of day was "typical" because of the full-time military man's "very busy" schedule at nearby Camp Pendleton. "These particular mornings were a special private time with his daughters," Dunn said of Loggins.
Told that the video shows the SUV crashing through the school gates, Dunn, who has seen the footage, countered, "What we see is what appears to be a traffic accident. The vehicle was run or driven into the gate. The severity of the accident is unclear. The extent of the property damage is unclear. I have seen damage to the SUV."
The video also shows the SUV was followed by a sheriff's unit with its lights on.
"I think what's important about this video is not what it shows but what it doesn't show," observed Dunn, speaking like a true attorney. ". . . This is a case . . . involving the death of a man, a man that was shot and killed in the presence of his daughters. He was not armed. We have no concept as to why the deputy fired. He was not threatened. No crime had occurred. . . . No information has been given by the Orange County Sheriff's Department as to why this was justified in any way."
Actually, the department and the deputies union said after the shooting that Loggins crashed through the gates, acted irrationally, got out of the SUV, said odd things, got back into the SUV against Deputy Darren Sandberg's commands, and was taken out by Sandberg to protect the girls, who are now both witnesses in the shooting investigation and plaintiffs in the family's legal complaint.
Baldwin read a sheriff's department statement that explained no more comment will be made pending an ongoing Orange County District Attorney's office investigation into the slaying. The newswoman added that Sandberg, who is back on patrol, has won awards for his service to the department, that he served as a combat Marine and that he is highly trained.
But her next question to Dunn struck me as odd: "Mr. Loggins was a Marine sergeant. Was he deployed?"
No, answered Dunn, Loggins had not been deployed, serving stateside recruiting Marines while pursuing an education to become a nurse. Why it would matter that Sandberg served in the Middle East while Loggins did not does not make sense to me. Maybe Baldwin's fishing for a PTSD angle, but such an explanation could fit the sergeant or the cop. Asked whether Loggins, who was about to become the father of a fourth daughter, suffered from family stress, Dunn swore there was "nothing out of the ordinary."
"If you look at what happened that day, there was nothing going on that was irrational on the part of Mr. Loggins, a law-abiding individual," said Dunn, who was then asked whether the crash was an example of an irrational act.
"Again, with regards to crashing through the gates, I did not see the video that way," Dunn answered. "At most it was a minor traffic accident. Given the time of day, he may not have seen the gate. When it comes to irrational, the sheriff's department is not saying what was so irrational. Why do you have to take this man's life?"
Dunn then added cryptically, "I can tell you they know the answers to those questions."
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