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Decedent shot after charging deputies with knife: defense








United States District Court, Central District, Riverside

Injury Type(s):

other-death; other-gunshot wound

Case Type:

Government – Police, Counties; Civil Rights – 42 USC 1983; Government – Excessive Force; Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Civil Rights – Police as Defendant; Constitutional Law – Search and Seizure

Case Name:

Jenny Tucker and Shawn Tucker, in each case individually and as successors in interest to Matthew Keith Tucker v. The County of Riverside, California; Michael Hamilton; Rosa Calderon; and Does 1-25,
No. 5:16-cv-02275


November 7, 2018



Jenny Tucker

Shawn Tucker

Estate of Matthew Tucker (Male, 18 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Darryl L. Exum;
Exum Law Offices;
Jenny Tucker, Shawn Tucker, Estate of Matthew Tucker

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Roger Clark; Police Practices & Procedures; Santee,
CA called by:
Darryl L. Exum


Rosa Calderon, 

Michael Hamilton, 

County of Riverside, California

Defense Attorney(s):

Tony M. Sain;
Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP;
Los Angeles,
Rosa Calderon, Michael Hamilton, County of Riverside, California ■ Lynn L. Carpenter;
Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP;
Los Angeles,
Rosa Calderon, Michael Hamilton, County of Riverside, California

Defendant Expert(s):

Kris Mohandie;
Clinical Psychology;
CA called by:
Tony M. Sain, Lynn L. Carpenter ■ James Borden;
Police Officers & Stress;
Las Vegas,
NV called by:
Tony M. Sain, Lynn L. Carpenter ■ Robert Fonzi;
Police Practices & Procedures;
Los Angeles,
CA called by:
Tony M. Sain, Lynn L. Carpenter ■ Melissa Fernandez;
Crime Scene Investigation/Reconstruction;
NJ called by:
Tony M. Sain, Lynn L. Carpenter


CSAC Excess Insurance Authority for all defendants (excess);
AmTrust Financial Services Inc. for all defendants (primary insurer)


On May 4, 2016, plaintiffs’ decedent Matthew Tucker, 18, a shipping clerk, told his mother, plaintiff Jenny Tucker, to call the police because he wanted to commit suicide. When Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies Rosa Calderon and Michael Hamilton arrived at the Tucker home, in Temecula, Ms. Tucker advised them that Matthew had access to a hunting knife and that she believed he wanted to commit “suicide by cop.” Ms. Tucker then led the deputies inside the home and directed them to her garage. Without any weapons in their hands, the deputies tried to contact Matthew from a laundry room adjacent to the garage. Calderon attempted to ask Matthew to talk to her from a position of about 20 feet away. However, the officers ultimately shot Matthew, who later died at a hospital. Matthew’s parents, Ms. Tucker and Shawn Tucker, acting individually and as their son’s successors in interest, sued Calderon; Hamilton; and the officers’ employer, the county of Riverside. Matthew’s parents alleged that the officers were negligent in the use of excessive force and pre-force tactics and that the county was liable for the officers’ actions. Specifically, they claimed that the deputies should have used their Tasers during the contact and/or summoned civilian crisis intervention teams to the scene. Defense counsel contended that in response to Calderon, who is 5 foot, 2 inches tall, Matthew, was was 6 foot, 5 inches tall, abruptly armed himself with a 12-inch hunting knife, which prompted both deputies to draw their guns and give multiple at-gunpoint commands to drop the knife, stop, and to talk to them. Counsel contended that Matthew responded to the commands by making three lunging movements toward the deputies, reaching as close as 10 to 15 feet from Calderon, in movements that Matthew’s mother described as taunting or provoking. After about 30 seconds of Ms. Tucker screaming at her son to do what the officers were telling him, the deputies asked her to leave the area, as her screaming allegedly did not seem to be helping the situation. Defense counsel contended that seconds after Ms. Tucker left the laundry room, Matthew charged full-speed toward the deputies in a runner’s bent-forward position with his knife-arm extended and pointed directly at Calderon’s chest. Counsel contended that a split-second after Matthew began his knife-armed charge, both officers opened fire in order to end the deadly threat and shot Matthew when he reached a distance of between 3 to 5 feet from Calderon, an arm’s reach away. Defense counsel argued that the deputies followed standard police practices for the reasonable use of force and tactics because no crisis intervention or mental health professionals could be called to the scene while Matthew was still armed and a threat. Counsel also argued that the deputies appropriately attempted de-escalation, both in the split-second that passed from their initial contact and when Matthew armed himself with a knife, and throughout the time he was making the knife-armed lunges. Counsel argued that the deputies did not do anything unreasonable that would have provoked Matthew to arm himself with the knife or to charge at the deputies with the knife. Defense counsel contended that standard police practice holds that when a person arms himself with a knife within 21 feet or less, officers are trained to answer the suspect’s deadly force (a knife) by drawing their own deadly force (guns) because that person can cross that distance in a split-second and because alternative force options increase the risk of death to an officer. Defense counsel further argued that once Matthew began his charge, the deputies’ only reasonable options were to shoot until the threat was ended or to let Calderon be stabbed to death.


Matthew sustained multiple gunshot wounds and fell into the laundry room. He was then transported to a local hospital, where he later died from his injuries that same day. Tucker‘s parents — Jenny Tucker, then a 46-year-old sales representative, and Shawn Tucker, then a 47-year-old firefighter — sought recovery of wrongful death damages for the loss of their 18-year-old son. They also sought recovery of damages for Matthew’s conscious pain and suffering.


The jury rendered a defense verdict. It found that only reasonable force was used and that there was no negligence in the pre-force tactics used by Calderon, Hamilton and the county.

Trial Information:


Jesus G. Bernal


$5,000,000 (total, by all plaintiffs, from all defendants; during the trial)



Trial Length:


Trial Deliberations:


Jury Vote:


Jury Composition:

4 male/ 3 female; 4 Hispanic/ 3 white

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiffs’ counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.