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Family of man who died in police custody files wrongful death lawsuit against city of Stockton, police

A spokesperson for the Stockton Police Department said they weren't commenting on pending litigation.

STOCKTON, Calif. — A family is suing the city of Stockton and the Stockton Police Department [SPD] after the 2020 in-custody death of an unarmed man.

In October 2020, two officers were accused of using excessive force on an unarmed and handcuffed man. Police were called to an AMPM because the suspect was allegedly threatening an employee. 

"One officer held the man down with his body while [another] officer used a baton pressed against the man’s shoulder to hold him down," according to a previous story from ABC10.

The man was identified as Shayne Sutherland, 29, a youth football coach and father. An independent coroner hired by the family said Sutherland's death was from restraint asphyxiation.

His mother, Karen Sutherland, spoke during a press conference Oct. 5 demanding justice and accountability from the Stockton Police Department and the city of Stockton.

"I can't begin to tell you the absolute devastating loss that I as a mother feel every single day. It's a constant nightmare I wake up to every single day," Karen Sutherland said. "It was not justified, my son was of no threat."

“Shayne’s unnecessary death is another result of the SPD’s unconstitutional practice of using improper restraint and excessive force,” said V. James DeSimone, a Marina del Rey civil rights attorney representing the Sutherland family. “At the time he was killed, Shayne was unarmed, handcuffed, in the prone position, not resisting, and posing no harm to anyone. Still, while he pleaded for his life, at least one police officer used his full body weight to literally crush the breath out of him. This violates well-established law enforcement standards and training, and the United States Constitution. This has to stop.”

Click here to read the lawsuit.

The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the city and the police department over the death. Named in the lawsuit are the city of Stockton, the involved SPD officers, Ronald Zalunardo and John Afanasiev, and Police Chief Eric Jones.

ABC10 reached out to Stockton Police Department regarding the lawsuit, however, a spokesperson said they are not commenting on pending litigation.

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