The family of a 56-year-old man who died earlier this year following an encounter with Chula Vista police announced Monday they are filing a pair of wrongful death lawsuits against the city.
The lawsuits seek the names of the officers involved in the March 13 call for service that culminated in Oral Nunis’ death.
Both lawsuits are being filed in San Diego federal and state courts on behalf of four of Nunis’ children, including his daughter Kimone, who called 911 shortly after midnight March 13 after her father began experiencing a mental health issue and attempted to jump out of a second-story window.
While addressing reporters at a news conference announcing the lawsuits, Kimone Nunis said responding officers did not speak to her or ask her what was happening with her father when they arrived.
“That night, I just wanted help. I picked up the phone. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she said.
Attorneys for the family say officers tackled Nunis outside the home and “dogpiled” atop him, placed him in a WRAP restraint device and put a “spit hood” over his head.
In a statement released shortly after Nunis’ death, the police department said he was restrained to prevent him from hurting himself or others. The department also alleged Nunis was “uncooperative with officers and struggled as they attempted to detain him,” resulting in injuries to two of the officers.
The federal lawsuit alleges Nunis was unconscious and unresponsive after the altercation, and that those restraints were placed upon him while he was unconscious.
Nunis was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Attorney John Burris, who represents the family, said police should have responded by de-escalating the situation.
“Mr. Nunis was seeking help. The family was seeking help. But instead of getting help, he was met with force,” Burris said.
A similar lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of Nunis’ widow and three other children. Their attorney, Carl Douglas, alleged the city has withheld Nunis’ cause of death, while a statement released by the city last month indicated his cause of death has not yet been determined.
“The City of Chula Vista understands and shares the public’s and the family’s desire to have all of their questions answered about this incident. However, it is premature and inappropriate to come to any conclusions at this time,” according to the city’s statement in response to that lawsuit. “The investigation is ongoing, and the true cause of death has not been determined by the Medical Examiner. Because of this, and now the threat of litigation, the City and the Police Department must refrain from commenting further beyond the statements already made. The City and Police Department continue to express our deepest condolences to the family and all of those touched by Mr. Nunis’ tragic passing.”
City officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the latest filings.
In addition to the federal lawsuit alleging wrongful death and violations of Nunis’ civil rights, the state lawsuit seeks the release of the officers’ names.
The complaint states Kimone Nunis submitted a California Public Records Act request in July seeking the names of the involved officers, as well as body camera footage, reports and statements from witnesses and other information police have regarding the case.
According to the lawsuit, which alleges the city violated the CPRA, the family was told months later that the information was being withheld “because of ongoing criminal and administrative investigations.”
— City News Service