Family of homeless man killed by Stanislaus County deputies files wrongful death, civil rights lawsuit

Local News

MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The family of a man shot and killed by Stanislaus County deputies last year has filed a federal lawsuit against the department for wrongful death and civil rights violations. 

On Sept. 27, 2020, Stanislaus County deputies responded to a silent alarm call on Business Park Drive in Modesto, where they found 41-year-old Eloy Gonzalez Jr. outside. 

Body camera footage shows Gonzalez refused to come out from behind some bushes, and the situation escalates when more deputies arrive. The sheriff’s department says Gonzalez grabbed a hatchet in a struggle with deputies and was shot.

Thursday, the family filed a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s department and the deputies who were involved in Gonzalez’s shooting death.

“Before he was shot and killed, he had not been aggressive in any way,” said civil rights attorney John Burris. “He was sitting in his makeshift home, cardboard boxes. That’s where he lived.”

Burris said Gonzalez was homeless and had a history of severe mental illness. 

He also said the deputies failed to de-escalate the situation. 

The department confirms at least one of those deputies was involved in a previous deadly shooting in 2018. 

Burris’ legal team said they want the deputies indicted for murder.

“Homeless people have a right to have civil rights too,” Burris said. “Mentally impaired people have civil rights too.”

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department released a statement to FOX40 Thursday.

“The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has completed its investigation in this case and found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the deputies involved in this tragic event,” the statement read in part.

But the family believes the deputies and the department should be held accountable. 

“We just want justice,” said Gonzalez’s younger brother, Paolo Gonzalez. “We just feel it’s wrong in every single way.”

Paolo Gonzalez said there’s now a void in their family that can never be filled. 

“He, obviously, was loved, you know. He had a big heart,” he said.

The sheriff’s department says all deputies involved in the shooting are on full, active duty.

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