SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the mother of a man killed by Sacramento police last year said officers escalated tensions and failed to appropriately handle a person in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Jordan Zenka, 26, was shot and killed by police inside a Sacramento grocery store in December 2020.
Police responded after Zenka crashed his car in front of the store. He entered the building holding a knife and used it to cut his neck, police said.
Mary Lennox, Zenka’s mother, said in a statement her son was suffering a mental health crisis and was in a vulnerable state. She said police violated Zenka’s civil rights and failed to provide proper medical care after shooting him.
“When the police brutally killed my son, they killed his hope,” Lennox said in a statement. “Jordan hoped to marry and have children, but in four seconds the officers chose to take away his life of promise, and broke my heart.”
The Sacramento Police Department released a series of bodycam videos of the incident, which can be seen here. The videos are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.
Police video shows officers communicating with Zenka as he stands inside the store. Police can be seen with a dog and carrying both lethal and less-lethal weapons.
Zenka later appears to move toward a group of approaching officers who fire less-lethal ammunition at him. Zenka then turns and falls to the ground after being shot by lethal ammunition.
Police shock Zenka, still holding a knife, with a Taser as he’s on the ground after being shot.
Zenka died at the scene, police said.
Lennox said she is horrified by police killings of Brown and Black men and hopes the lawsuit will help change law enforcement agencies’ policies regarding how they approach and encounter individuals experiencing mental health crises.
“Jordan was panicking and needed help, and they knew it,” Lennox said. “Help never came, only scary police dogs poised to attack him.”
Dale Galipo, Lennox’s attorney, said Zenka’s death is another example of police using deadly force against a person experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Time and time again, law enforcement officers are confronted with situations where they interact with citizens who struggle with mental health issues,” Galipo said. “And instead of deescalating the situation, they escalate it by using excessive force.”
Galipo said this often ends with the person dead and causes lasting harm to the person’s family.
“Police officers need better training with respect to the use of deadly force and de-escalating encounters with individuals who are mentally ill or experiencing a mental health crisis,” Galipo said.
Read the full complaint here: