Eureka police Officer Stephen Linfoot hadn’t shot Tommy McClain, his
supervisor would have.
Brian Stephens, testifying today in federal court, said he had
already decided to shoot McClain when Linfoot opened fire and killed
the 22-year-old Eureka man.
going to have to shoot him because of what he is doing,”
Stephens recalled thinking right before shots rang out. He also said
he had given McClain a clear warning: “I see the gun. Don’t
touch the gun or you’ll be shot.” He didn’t know why that
warning wasn’t heard on the video recording of the incident, but “I
know I told him that.”
was the second day of the civil lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents
against the city of Eureka and Officer Linfoot. All four of the
officers who were on the scene have now testified. The three who
actually witnessed the shooting say McClain was aggressively reaching
for the gun in his waistband when he was shot dead.
it turned out, the weapon in his waistband was an unloaded pellet
gun. No one can explain what McClain thought he might accomplish with
such a weapon.
was the first officer to speak with McClain. But two others, Officers
Ryan McElroy and Stanley Harkness, hiding behind a fence across the
street, had been observing him for awhile. At that time McClain was
just a nuisance to the police. They were there looking for another
man, and McClain was causing distractions. They watched him have an
“unfriendly” discussion with a man who parked his pickup
across the street from McClain’s duplex on Allard Avenue. Then, when
the man walked away, they saw McClain adopt an aggressive posture and
start fiddling with something in his waistband.
and Harkness decided to have Officer Linfoot drive by so McClain
would know police were in the neighborhood.
thought it was possible (Linfoot) would get Mr. McClain aware that
there’s law enforcement in the area and he should probably just call
it a night and go home,” Officer Harkness testified.
Linfoot cruising by apparently had the opposite effect.
soon as he passed by I watched Mr. McClain pull a black semiautomatic
pistol from his waistband, rack the slide and then put it back in his
waistband,” Officer McElroy testified. In the meantime he had
texted Capt. Stephens (then Sgt. Stephens) that McClain had a gun.
Stephens arrived, fixed a spotlight on McClain and began speaking
with him. McClain reportedly challenged him with statements such as
“You can’t search me” and “I didn’t do anything.”
was standing near his front porch. Stephens was on the sidewalk, soon
to be joined by Linfoot. It’s clear on the video that someone says
“Get down here right now,” and also “Keep your hands
up.” That was said more than once. Finally you hear “Get
down,” and then shots. McClain either lowered and raised his
hands once or twice before he was shot, depending on which account is
said he was trying to persuade McClain to “get down here”
to the sidewalk so he could be safely handcuffed.
video recording from Linfoot’s car captures shouted commands and then
the rapid pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop of the seven shots Linfoot
fired. McClain’s parents, seated in the front row, burst into
agonized sobbing when they heard the shots that ended their son’s
life. They left the courtroom and returned later.
attorney Dale Galipo has suggested repeatedly that McClain might have
interpreted the final “Get down” as an order to actually
get down on the ground. That might explain why he lowered his hands,
Galipo says, because he was starting to lower himself. Linfoot. who
says he was the one who said “Get down,” believes this was
an “interrupted command.” Interrupted that is, by the fatal
officers said McClain never acted as though he was starting to drop
to the ground. Harkness testified that if police do want a person to
literally get down, they would be ordered to go to their knees and
then to their chest and stomach.
asked Stephens today whether he really had planned to shoot McClain,
or might just be backing Linfoot up because they both work for the
you read my statement (taken the day after the killing) I had made
the decision to shoot Mr. McClain,” Stephens said.
for the actual shooter, Linfoot choked up today when defense attorney
Nancy Delaney asked how he felt about his decision. He said he
believes he did the right thing.
was scared that gun was going to come out and he was going to be able
to shoot me or my partners,” Linfoot said. When Delaney asked
whether an officer has the “luxury” of waiting until a suspect
actually fires, Linfoot said “No, because that can cost you your
later questioning by Galipo, Linfoot said he is sorry for the McClain
I feel is I feel bad for the family and what they’ve had to endure.”
he said. “It’s not something I wanted to do; it was something I
needed to do.”
The trial continues today with seven jurors remaining. One woman juror had to drop out because of a death in the family, federal Judge William Orrick told those in the courtroom.
THE TOMMY MCCLAIN INCIDENT:
- Eureka Police Officer Involved in Fatal Shooting
- Eureka Police Officer-Involved Shooting Victim Named
- A Gathering For Tommy (PHOTOS/VIDEO)
- The Death of Tommy McClain: What Happened in Wednesday’s Officer-Involved Shooting
- The Last Hours: Countdown to the Death of Tommy McClain
- LIVE: The Eureka Police Department Press Conference on the Shooting of Tommy McClain
- In an Eerie Coincidence, the EPD Peaceably Arrested a Man Brandishing a Realistic Toy Pistol Right Before Yesterday’s Press Conference
- Eureka Police Department Promotions Doled Out at Wharfinger Building Ceremony; Small Protest Outside
- DA: No Charges Will Be Filed Against Officer for Death of Tommy McClain
- Attorney in Martin Cotton Case to File Wrongful Death Claim in EPD Shooting of Tommy McClain
- Civil Lawsuit Filed Against City of Eureka, Police for Shooting Death of Tommy McClain
- Eureka Police Shooting Death Case Heads to Trial
- Evidence of Drunkenness Unlikely to be Admitted in Case Against Eureka Officer Who Shot, Killed Tommy McClain
Outpost contributor Rhonda Parker previously covered courts for the Times-Standard.