- Did He Go For the Gun? Day One of the Tommy McClain Wrongful Death Suit Against the City of Eureka
- McCLAIN TRIAL, DAY TWO: Emotional Day in Court as Officers Testify About the Moment Tommy McClain Was Killed
McClain’s arms were stretched out and his hands were in plain view
when he was shot dead by a Eureka police officer, one of McClain’s
housemates testified today in federal court.
Mottern, who is married to McClain’s cousin, said she was watching
from her front porch when McClain was killed. She is “100
percent sure” that McClain’s hands were visible during the
entire episode. After McClain was pronounced dead at St. Joseph
Hospital, she spoke with Eureka police detectives.
“I told them ‘I hope you do a thorough investigation because it was very wrong. Tommy was complying and there was no reason to shoot him.’ I feel to this day that it should have been considered a murder.”
Mottern’s testimony directly contradicts statements from three Eureka police officers, including the shooter, that McClain was reaching for a gun in the waistband of his pants when he was killed.
Today was the third day of testimony in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by McClain’s parents, Lance McClain and Jeanne Barragan, against the city of Eureka and Officer Stephen Linfoot.
On Sept. 17, 2014, Mottern lived with her husband, two young daughters and 22-year-old Tommy McClain in a duplex on Allard Avenue in Eureka. She, her husband and McClain had been out celebrating her husband’s birthday and had been home for a short time before the deadly encounter with police.
said she was upstairs preparing for bed when she saw bright lights
“I ran down the stairs and out the front door and the whole yard was lit up,” she testified under questioning by plaintiffs’ attorney Dale Galipo. “I saw Tommy standing right there next to the porch and we looked at each other like ‘What’s going on?’
“She couldn’t see who was behind the bright spotlight trained on McClain, but she heard shouted commands such as “Put your hands up” and “Get down.” She also heard “I see the gun.” Mottern said it was a chaotic scene, with “everybody yelling.”
was walking toward the sidewalk, Mottern said, with his arms out to
his sides at chest level and the palms forward. The scene was so
bewildering, she didn’t know who was being yelled at or what
the shouters wanted.
don’t know whether they were telling him to put his hands up or get
down on the ground,” Mottern said. “I was very, very
McClain was shot, Mottern was in such shock and disbelief that “I
thought they were going to kill me next.”
the mortally wounded man hit the ground, Mottern watched as police
placed handcuffs on his wrists.
handcuffed him,” she said through her tears. “His lifeless
said she had no idea that McClain was carrying any kind of weapon.
After he was shot, police removed an unloaded pellet gun from his
waistband. Officers had believed the gun was a semiautomatic pistol,
and two officers had seen McClain take the gun out and “rack the
slide” when he saw Officer Linfoot drive by in his marked police
to Mottern’s testimony that McClain obeyed every police order,
officers say McClain kept lowering and raising his hands and had to
be told repeatedly to keep his hands up.
they say, McClain reached aggressively for the gun in his waistband.
Linfoot opened fire and shot seven times, with three bullets striking
McClain. Linfoot’s supervisor, Capt. Brian Stephens, has testified
that he had decided to shoot but Linfoot shot first.
had apparently not come out of the house yet when McClain reportedly
was telling Stephens “You can’t search me,” and “I didn’t
were doing surveillance in the neighborhood that night, looking not
for McClain but another man. Two hidden officers reportedly heard and
watched McClain confront a man who had parked his truck across the
street, telling him “You need to leave.” But Mottern says
there was no such encounter with that man.
didn’t even say anything to him,” she said.
testified that McClain was very hard of hearing and had recently
purchased some hearing aids at Miranda’s Thrift Store. She wasn’t
asked whether he was wearing them that night. He was also
“practically blind,” Mottern said. He wore broken
eyeglasses that were just perched on his nose. McClain had been
drinking that night, but Mottern said she didn’t believe he was
intoxicated at the time of his death.
to previous testimony, McClain never indicated he couldn’t hear or
understand the commands being given, and he also never behaved as
though he thought he was supposed to get on the ground. Police say
they were telling him “Get down here” so he would walk down
to the sidewalk and they could safely take him into custody.
in the trial must decide whether police used excessive force or were
negligent. They also must determine whether to award damages to the
The trial was expected to continue Thursday morning before federal Judge William Orrick. The eight-member jury has now dwindled to six, the minimum required in a civil trial. One juror served only a day before she left because of a death in her family. Another panelist was excused today because he realized he “had knowledge” of one of the witnesses, Judge Orrick announced.
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.