CHICAGO, Feb. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Seeking justice for her son and hoping to hold local officials accountable in order to prevent future tragedies, Miguelina Peña filed suit in federal court on Monday, naming the police officer who shot her son, as well as the former police chief, city and county as defendants.
Ms. Peña’s son, Ricardo Muñoz, 27, was fatally shot after his family contacted police for their help during a mental health episode last year. Mr. Muñoz, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in his early 20s, was well-known to the local police department, whom his family had turned to repeatedly for help in similar situations.
On Sept. 13, Mr. Muñoz’s family had again called the crisis intervention hotline when Ricardo became agitated and was experiencing a psychotic episode. Following instructions from the crisis intervention operator, they then called the local non-emergency police number for assistance as well as 911.
Local police dispatched Officer Karson Arnold to the Muñoz family residence. Within minutes of the Officer Arnold’s arrival, Ricardo Muñoz was dead: shot multiple times by the officer in front of his home as his mother, Ms. Peña, watched in horror.
Attorneys Steven Levin, Daisy Ayllon and Julie Murphy from Levin & Perconti in Chicago are representing the Muñoz family, along with attorneys Michael Perna and Ryan Borchik of Perna & Abracht in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
The suit, which comes in the wake of local officials’ decision not to file charges against Officer Arnold in the matter, notes that the city and county had no proper procedures in place to deal with people in mental health crises and that the officer failed to make any attempt to de-escalate the situation or use less-lethal means to bring Mr. Muñoz to safety.
“Ricardo’s death was, at best, the predictable result of ill-advised and clumsy police work—and heart-breakingly preventable. At worst, it was the direct result of a cynical and callous disregard for the well-being of one of society’s less fortunate sons,” said attorney Michael Perna.
Citing the city’s deficient policies concerning officer supervision and training, attorney Daisy Ayllon added, “Ultimately, Ricardo’s lawsuit is about mental health reform, about police accountability when dealing with mentally-disturbed individuals who have committed no crime, and about the prevention of similar tragedies as a direct result of untrained and heavy-handed police intervention.”
“Sometimes a community must look beyond itself for justice, and that’s what the federal courts are for. We are looking to shine a light upon the system failures in responding to this call for help,” said attorney Julie Murphy.
In December, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced two bills calling for reform in how police nationwide respond to people with mental health issues and other disabilities. Casey referenced the Muñoz case, along with two other police shootings of mentally ill men in Pennsylvania, as he announced the legislative initiative. In Philadelphia, days of demonstrations, including some protests that escalated into violence, had followed the October police shooting of Walter Wallace, who, like Muñoz, suffered from mental illness.
“To their astonishing credit, rather than venting anger while in the grip of anguish, Ricardo’s family actively discouraged violence in the immediate aftermath of his killing, which spared the city of Lancaster yet more tragedy,” said attorney Ryan Borchik.
The Muñoz family’s lawsuit seeks damages for Ricardo’s pain and suffering – including the denial of medical attention after he was shot – and his wrongful death as well as the emotional distress inflicted upon his mother as she witnessed his killing and the physical injury she suffered when, following her son’s fatal shooting, she was tackled against a police vehicle.
“Ricardo’s family first looked to a local crisis center for help with his well-documented mental health condition, but instead the police arrived and within a few short minutes had shot and killed their son and brother. Next the family looked to local law enforcement for transparency and accountability, but instead they encountered a most condescending response from the District Attorney and no transparency. Now they look to the federal court for justice,” said Steven Levin.
Levin & Perconti is a nationally renowned law firm concentrating in all types of personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. The lawyers at Levin & Perconti are committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who are injured by the negligence of others. Please contact the firm at (312) 332-2872 or visit www.levinperconti.com for more information.
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SOURCE Levin & Perconti