Family sues police over California Taser-related death

LOS ANGELES Fri Sep 2, 2011 10:22pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The parents of a Southern California man who accuse police of killing their son with a Taser after he honked at a patrol car have sued the sheriff's department and county.

The suit accuses the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the county of San Bernardino and three deputies of assault and battery as well as negligence in the death of Allen Kephart, 43.

Kephart was driving in Rimforest, 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, in May when he honked at a patrol vehicle that turned in front of him, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

The sheriff's deputy then circled his patrol car back behind Kephart's vehicle and pulled him over at a nearby gas station, the lawsuit said.

The deputy ordered Kephart out of his car at gunpoint, forced him to the ground, and was joined by a sergeant and another deputy, the lawsuit said.

The three officers used their electroshock Taser weapons on Kephart "without provocation or justification" for about 10 minutes, expending five cartridges, the lawsuit states.

Kephart, who the suit said was "overheard screaming for help," stopped breathing at the gas station.

The suit also accused the officers, named as Deputy Ismael Diaz, Deputy Michael Gardea and Sergeant Bryan Lane, of failing to immediately perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or call for emergency assistance.

A representative from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

But the department said in a statement earlier this year that Kephart "became combative and uncooperative" with a deputy after exiting his car.

The department also said the sheriff's deputies did at one point perform CPR on Kephart, and that he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Kephart's family is seeking general and compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial for lost earning potential and loss of love and affection.

"Allen Kephart was a well known person in the community and was known by all, including the officers involved in this incident, to be ... kind hearted and nonviolent," the lawsuit said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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