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By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Erik Talavera at rally; screenshot from video by ECM media partner 10 News

View deputies’ body camera footage of the shooting (warning, disturbing content): 

November 30, 2023 (Lakeside) – A Lakeside man who suffered permanent injuries from being shot 16 times has filed a lawsuit against San Diego County and two Sheriff’s deputies who opened fire. 

The civil lawsuit filed by Erik Talavera alleges that deputies David Lovejoy and Jonathan Young gave conflicting commands and used excessive force and negligence during the incident in El Cajon on Feb.16, 2022. The deputies were cleared of criminal wrongdoing following an investigation by the District Attorney.

Talavera was pulled over for driving a van towing a stolen trailer. The trailer, which had a tracking device, was bait in a sting operation  set up by the county’s anti-auto theft task force.

According to the suit,  Talavera was homeless when he took the trailer.  He pleaded guilty to the theft, as well as to a misdemeanor offense related to a knife he possessed, and was sentenced to probation.

Talavera had exited the vehicle when videotape provided by the Sheriff confirms that one deputy ordered him not to move, while the other ordered him to get on the ground.  The suit claims he was trying to get on the ground when deputies opened fire, shooting him 12 times,  then firing two more times after he was on the ground.

One shot also accidentally struck a National City Police officer, Detective Rowdy Pauu. Pauu has also sued the county over the shooting, alleging that the officers “started shooting without a warning” while “the suspect was moving towards the ground.” His suit contends that the shootings  were “reckless” and that stray bullets also struck nearby homes.

The officers have claimed that Talavera told them “Just shoot me,” before they turned on the body cameras, but there is no video or witness testimony to substantiate that claim. The deputies were approximately 40 feet away when they opened fire.

According to the lawsuit,”Mr.Talavera did not threaten any member of law enforcement, nor would a reasonable deputy interpret Mr.Talavera’s conduct as a threat of violence or endangering anyone.”

However, the District Attorney found that Talavera “created a deadly force situation by pulling a metallic black object from his waistband, an item both deputies believed could have been a small firearm.”  Despite being told not to reach for the object. Talavera clutched the knife close to his body.  But even after the knife was released and on the pavement, Deputy Lovejoy fired two more shots that struck  Talavera.

“It’s criminal because at that point, he knows that Mr.Talavera doesn’t pose any danger to him,” said Marcus Bourassa,  Talavera’s attorney,  ECM media partner 10 News reports. Bourassa described his client as “a very kind man, a generous person.”

The County of San Diego’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board came to a different conclusion than the D.A.,  finding that Talavera was complying with commands and was facing away from the deputies when they opened fire.

Talavera,  in a wheelchair, spoke out at a rally, surrounded by supporters wearing “Justice for Erik Talavera” T-shirts. He spent months in the hospital forwounds that will require lifelong care, according to the lawsuit, including a bullet lodged in his leg that cannot be removed and has left him in pain and unable to work.

“I can’t bend my waist.  I’m still working on walking. I can’t eat regular food, take a regular shower, or even tie my shoes,” Talavera said at the rally. “But somehow, I survived.”

The Sheriff’s department does not comment on pending litigation and the County’s spokesperson has declined comment in requests from multiple media outlets.


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