The family of a 21-year-old man who was shot and killed by Concord police in Antioch last year filed a civil rights lawsuit this week in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit alleges that Concord police maliciously executed the unarmed man and then conspired with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office to cover up the facts in the case, according to the complaint filed Tuesday. Concord police said after the May 2013 shooting that Charles Burnshad been under surveillance in a drug investigation. As they were preparing to serve a warrant in the 2700 block of Barcelona Circle in Antioch on May 10, Burns left the home and got into a vehicle with another suspect, police said. Police said that as they tried to contact Burns the driver sped away and rammed a police car. According to police, Burns then ran from the vehicle and officers feared for their safety and shot and killed him. Police said that life-saving measures were attempted but were unsuccessful.
However the lawsuit, which names Burns’ parents as plaintiffs along with the driver of the vehicle, identified as Bobby Lawrence of Bay Point, alleges that the officers blocked the two men’s exit from the area with unmarked police cars and pointed guns at them without identifying themselves as law enforcement. The plaintiffs allege that the police then rammed Lawrence and Burns’ vehicle several times with unmarked police cars before finally identifying themselves as police, and that the reason the two tried to escape was they thought they were being attacked. Once the two men stopped, the suit alleges they were rammed one more time, and then Burns fled from the vehicle into the intersection. Once there, the plaintiffs allege that Burns stopped at the instruction of the police but that five officers opened fire, hitting Burns numerous times including through his skull.
The suit alleges that even after Burns was lifeless on the ground one of the Concord police officers, none of whom have been named publicly and are referred to as Does in the complaint, fired a shot into his body “out of pure malice and spite” and that medical aid was not provided. The plaintiffs allege that the police then worked with the district attorney’s office to cover up the details of the shooting and maintain a “shroud of secrecy” around the investigation. City Attorney Mark Coon said today that the city does not comment on pending litigation. In a statement issued last May, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said that officers had tried to contact Burns in the home’s driveway and he then fled into the truck.
Once inside, the driver of the truck, unnamed in the district attorney’s release, allegedly tried to escape by driving on the sidewalk and hit several parked cars in his attempt to get away and then rammed a police car. Burns allegedly did not comply with police orders as he fled the truck and police feared for their lives because he was reaching into his waistband. The district attorney’s office said that after the shooting the officers determined that Burns had a cellphone in his hand and methamphetamine in the waistband of his pants. After a search of the home, the district attorney’s office said police found 1.5 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, a 9mm handgun and $17,000 in cash.
A coroner’s inquest for a jury to determine the facts surrounding Burns’ death is scheduled for Thursday. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the city of Concord, the Concord Police Department, Concord police Chief Guy Swanter, Contra Costa County, the district attorney’s officer, Concord police Detective James Nakayama, Concord police officer Mike Hansen and 60 other unnamed defendants.
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