The Pasadena Police Department on Monday released 911 audio as well as body-worn camera footage related to a call involving a possibly suicidal person that a man and woman say led to four officers improperly searching their apartment and violating their privacy.
Police Chief John Perez stood by the officers, saying they acted appropriately during the July 22, 2019, incident in the 600 block of South Lake Avenue.
“The officers’ actions were consistent with departments’ policies and procedures for the purpose of preserving life,” he said in a written statement. “It is incumbent that officers make every effort to save lives when feasible. Officers took necessary steps in an attempt to prevent an individual from taking his own life.”
Ultimately, the call turned out to be a hoax, but police had no way of knowing that at the time and had a responsibility to investigate the potentially life-threatening situation that was reported to them, according to the chief.
“As has been the practice, the released recordings assisted in determining if there was reason to initiate a personnel investigation into the actions of any of the officers involved,” Perez said. “Had I or any member of his Command Staff found such reason, an investigation would have commenced.”
Keith Anderson and Loreno McCaigue have each filed claims alleging violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and seeking $10 million.
Both parties agree that it all started with a 911 call from a male voice.
At no time during this call were threats made to, or against others, nor did they state the individual had any weapons,” according to the claims.
But police said, based on the phone call, that the man clearly appeared to pose a serious danger to himself.
“This incident, which ultimately was determined to be a hoax call to the police department, involved a male caller who detailed how he had lost a significant amount of money and intended to commit suicide,” Pasadena police said in a written statement. “While talking with the department’s emergency dispatcher, the caller went into great detail as to how he was going to complete the act. Officers responded and when they arrived, they forced entry into the residence to render aid, in an effort to preserve the suicidal subjects’ life; no one was located inside the residence.”
In the phone call released by police, the caller tells a dispatcher that he was despondent after having just lost $26,700 in a scam.
“I am going to die. I am,” the voice is heard saying. The call continues as the man claims he is walking into a department store and buying rope with his last $57, then heading to his home on Lake Avenue.
“I am going home to make myself ready,” the man says. When asked what he means, he replies, “I told you. I will put my rope on the fence.”
“Heaven is a good place. I am going to heaven. Heaven is waiting for me now,” he said.
After determining no one was inside, the claimants alleged that officers repeatedly searched their drawers, documents and other personal belongings without a valid reason, and in violation of their rights. The searching continued after the officers learned that one of the occupants of the home was a law enforcement officer, according to the claim.
Police maintain there was nothing inappropriate about the searching.
“…officers sought available evidence inside to determine if the name of the suicidal subject matched the name of the resident(s) and attempt to locate a responsible party so that the residence could be secured,” the police statement said. “After a limited search, documents were located inside that indicated the names were different and it eventually became apparent the call was a false emergency call for help, meant to mislead police.”
The claim states that two officers “appear to manipulate their Body Worn Cameras” while having a conversation toward the end of the incident.
The department countered that the officers did turn off their cameras, but it was in line with department policy.
“The supervisor and officer did turn off their BWC’s, as required by department policy, while discussing sensitive information, so as to prevent the recording of potentially private information related to the incident,” the statement said.
In addition to the claim alleging civil rights violations, the man and woman also filed a claim with the city seeking reimbursement for the cost of the door that was damaged by officers when they forced their way into the home, the statement added. “This claim has already been paid by the City.”
The 911 recording and video footage were released in the interest of transparency, Perez said.
“In conjunction with the current demands for reform of police agencies, it is important the Pasadena Police Department share with the public as much information as legally possible regarding police performance,” he said. “In releasing information, it is imperative the public have a complete view of critical incidents to understand the dynamics in their entirety, rather than a limited view.”