Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 16
Slain officer's family files a personal injury claim against Santa Maria
BY AMY ASMAN
The family of Albert Covarrubias, Jr.—the Santa Maria police officer who was shot and killed in January by a fellow officer at a DUI checkpoint—has filed a personal injury claim against the city of Santa Maria seeking restitution in the amount of $10,000. The claim is believed to be the first step in initiating a wrongful death lawsuit.
Filed on behalf of the family by Irvine-based attorney Gil Alvandi, the claim accuses the Santa Maria Police Department of committing numerous crimes. The allegations are connected to Covarrubias’ death, but also the day-to-day practices of the department.
The legal document lists the following allegations: “Deprivations of federal and California civil rights, assault and battery, invasion of privacy, slander, defamation and libel, conspiracy to obstruct justice, false arrest and imprisonment, [and] conspiracy to maliciously prosecute.”
It also alleges the department violated several sections of California Penal Code pertaining to kidnapping, perjury, excessive force, destroying evidence, intimidating a witness, and more.
The claim condemns what it calls the “official customs, policies, and practices of the CITY OF SANTA MARIA and police department to ignore civilian complaints of police misconduct, [and] failure to impartially investigate such claims in accordance with acceptable law enforcement standards.”
The document lists the handful of officers present the night of Covarrubias’ death, including the man who shot him, Officer Matt Kline, and the commanding officers the family believes are responsible for Covarrubias’ death.
The family disagrees with Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley’s findings that Kline used justifiable lethal force when he shot Covarrubias.
In a public statement, attorney Alvandi said the family is “deeply saddened” by the results of the district attorney’s investigation.
“However, it comes as no surprise,” Alvandi said. “As a potential defendant in the civil lawsuit for the wrongful death and use of excessive force against Officer Covarrubias, we would expect the District Attorney’s office to reach a resolution that would exonerate public officials of any wrong doing.
“We feel that the investigation was conducted with a pre-determined outcome clearing the city and its officials of any wrong doing. The attempt to protect officials at the highest levels of the police department is blatant and unacceptable,” Alvandi continued. “This is an attempt between respective agencies to scratch one another’s back and keep the public in the dark.”
Alvandi referenced findings in the district attorney’s report that stated command-level officers expressed concerns over arresting Covarrubias at the DUI checkpoint.
“The Covarrubias family is left with several unanswered questions: What was the urgency for an early morning arrest of an armed officer? Was Officer Covarrubias being arrested while on duty to justify the use of lethal force?” Alvandi said. “These are all questions that will be answered through an independent investigation that our office will be conducting.”
As of press time, the Santa Maria City Attorney’s Office had not returned requests for comment.
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