The family of a mentally disabled California man who was fatally shot by police in December filed a $20 million claim last week against the City of Long Beach, California, alleging that officers violated his constitutional rights and caused his wrongful death.
The claim, which precedes a lawsuit, accuses the city and its police department of failing to adopt procedures to properly train and supervise its officers, two of whom allegedly used excessive force after encountering Mharloun Saycon, 39, at an arcade he often visited.
"Instead of evaluating and managing a non-emergency situation until backup could arrive, the two officers tased Mharloun, beat him with a baton, and then shot him multiple times in the chest, arm, and abdomen, resulting in his death," the claim, filed Thursday, reads.
A police spokesman reached by phone Monday declined to comment because of the pending litigation. A voicemail left Monday with the Long Beach City Attorney's Office was not returned.
The incident unfolded on the night of Dec. 14, when Saycon, a regular at Looff's Lite-A-Line Casino Game of Skill, was sitting by himself at a game table with a three-inch knife, which he was using to scratch the glass top, according to the claim. Saycon put the knife away at an employee's request, the document said.
While Saycon, according to the claim, did not wave or point the knife at anyone, a worker phoned the police to have him taken out of the building. The caller also told police that Saycon may have a mental disability, the document said.
Saycon was sitting in a chair, facing the front doors, when police arrived shortly after 10 p.m., the claim said. Entering through separate doors, the officers approached Saycon with their guns drawn, the document said. Saycon "was not agitated, upset or threatening," according to the claim.
"Before giving Mharloun an adequate opportunity to comprehend the situation, the officers tased Mharloun directly in the chest," the document alleges.
Saycon, who, according to the claim, did not fight back or advance toward officers, was struck with a police baton, the document said. One of the officers then opened fire on Saycon, hitting him eight times, the claim said. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
A Long Beach Police Department statement released one day after the shooting said that the responding officers received an update while en route that Saycon was waving the knife inside the arcade and that some customers had left because they feared for their safety.
When officers arrived, they came upon Saycon who was sitting and still armed, police said. Saycon, according to the police statement, did not drop the knife when ordered to do so. Officers subsequently used an "electronic control device" and a baton on Saycon, which police said were both ineffective. Following the shooting, officers immediately began life-saving measures on Saycon, police said.
The statement added that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office was conducting an independent investigation of the shooting. There were limited portions of the incident recorded on video, which authorities were reviewing, according to police.
In addition to seeking damages, Saycon's family is calling for a criminal prosecution of the officers involved in the shooting and for revisions to the Long Beach Police Department's guidelines for use of force, according to the claim.
"His life was taken away. He doesn't deserve to be that violent death," his father, Khanly Saycon, told NBC Southern California. "It is another case of police shooting an innocent man and then trying to cover it up."