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Police shooting prompts lawsuit: Moreno Valley death at issue
[Moreno Valley, CA]

February 15, 2001
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Police shooting prompts lawsuit: Moreno Valley death at issue
[Moreno Valley, CA]

Guy McCarthy; The Press-Enterprise
February 14, 2001, Wednesday
Copyright 2001 The Press-Enterprise (RIVERSIDE, CA.)
February 14, 2001, Wednesday

(MORENO VALLEY, Calif.) -- The mother of a man shot and killed by officers during a home-invasion robbery in January 2000 has filed a federal lawsuit against Moreno Valley police and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Phoebe Garcia of Moreno Valley asserts that police wrongly killed her son, Sonny

Daniel Diaz, 24, and deprived him of his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, according to court documents.

Police said Diaz came out of the house where a home invasion had been reported and pointed a handgun at officers, who shot and killed him.

Diaz was one of three men suspected of breaking into a home in the 23600 block of Suncrest Avenue about 6:30 a.m. Jan. 10, police said. When officers arrived, a man with a shotgun came out and ran back inside.

Diaz then came out with a handgun and ignored four officers' commands to drop the gun, police said. After Diaz pointed the gun, all four officers opened fire and killed him.

Diaz died of multiple gunshot wounds to his head, neck, chest and extremities, coroner's officials said. An autopsy report listed 11 gunshot wounds, including entry and exit wounds.

Police arrested the other two suspects: Diaz's brother, Manuel Joe Diaz, 27, and Oscar Mendez, 29. Five victims were led out of the home with their wrists bound in duct tape.

Manuel Diaz was charged with sexually battering two women in the home. He and Mendez were both charged with residential burglary, home-invasion robbery, assault with a firearm and false imprisonment.

They were also charged with murder because they are accused of participating in a felony that led to Sonny Diaz's death.

The men are awaiting trial, court officials said.

Garcia's attorney, Mark Blankenship, questioned police accounts of what happened.

"I've been told (Sonny Diaz) had his hands up when he was shot," Blankenship said. "We don't have any confirmation he pointed the gun at police. Also, they cuffed him even though he was dying. One officer's report said no resuscitative measures were taken."

Police and sheriff's officials are not allowed to comment on matters of pending litigation, said sheriff's Sgt. Mark Lohman. Moreno Valley contracts with the Sheriff's Department for the city's police services.

Sonny Diaz served three years in prison for a 1994 guilty plea in the shooting death of a co-worker. He was initially charged with murder in the death of Ernie Ruiz, 45, a father of five and assistant manager of the car wash where Sonny Diaz worked.

Sonny Diaz later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case and received a seven-year prison sentence. He was paroled in January 1998.

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Copyright©2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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