Family of man killed by police in 2014 "seeking justice" in claim against City of Yakima
YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's been two and a half years since 23-year-old Rocendo Arias was shot and killed by police.
Prosecutors have since cleared the officer who fired the shots, saying the shooting was justified.
But a new civil claim filed by Arias's family says Yakima Police Officer Casey Gillette's actions were unnecessary and unlawful.
"They're seeking justice, justice for the death of their son, justice of the death of a brother," Attorney Bill Pickett said.
Investigators say Officer Gillette saw a suspicious car parked at a car wash on Nob Hill Boulevard.
After noticing it hadn't moved for an hour, YPD says Gillette approached Arias's car; first on the driver's side, then the passenger's side and opened the door.
The officer told investigators he saw Arias holding a gun.
Gillette says Arias woke up and lunged at him with what he later found out was an air-soft gun.
That's when the officer shot at Arias four times, including one fatal shot to the head.
Former police Captain Rod Light conducted an in-depth investigation for the family in the potential lawsuit. Light argues in the claim evidence shows Arias was fast asleep the whole time based on blood splatter and the way his body was seated in the car after the incident.
"The officer has asserted that there was a lunge, there was a phantom lunge, our position is completely contrary to that," Pickett said.
The claim is seeking $5 million in damages.
But if the city wants to settle the case, it must include $2.5 million dollars , a public apology, and admitting the shooting was wrong.
It also asks for Officer Gillete to be fired and asks the city to create a citizen review panel to investigate police misconduct in the future.
"If we don't keep them in check, and I say we, I mean the good decent citizens of our community, if we don't keep them in check, who will?" Pickett said.
Yakima city leaders say they won't comment on pending litigation.
The city has 60 days to respond to the claim.