Lawsuit filed against police in July shooting death of man on Del Paso Boulevard

The family of Joseph Mann listens as civil rights attorney John L. Burris discusses the July 11 police shooting that left Mann dead.

By Scott Thomas Anderson

Family members of Joseph Mann, who was shot to death July 11 by Sacramento police, broke their silence at an emotionally charged press conference today at Allen Chapel African Methodist Church. Announcing a new federal wrongful death lawsuit, Mann’s family members allowed their attorney to show a cell phone video, provided by a witness, that they claim proves Mann was unarmed and not a threat to officers when he was shot.

Mann was killed walking on Del Paso Boulevard after residents called 911 to report him behaving erratically around the nearby businesses. Now, veteran civil rights attorney John L. Burris is representing Mann’s family and said that “any ordinary person” would have recognized Mann was having a psychological episode and needed mental health professionals called to the scene.

Instead, Burris contends, the video shows police “aggressively” cornered him against a fence before firing on him while his hands were empty and he wasn’t charging.

Burris also showed graphic photographs from Mann’s autopsy to prove the 51-year-old’s body was, in Burris’s words, “literally shredded” by 18 bullets. Burris alleges that the two Sacramento police officers involved ignored standard police protocol on multiple levels when they decided to use lethal force.

The officers, whom the police department finally named today, are John C. Tennis, on the force since 1990, and Randy R. Lozoya, who joined the force in 1991. Both have been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

In a public statement issued by the Sacramento Police Department on July 11, authorities said Mann had been brandishing a knife and appeared to be drawing a gun from his waistband when officers fired. Police also said they had received various 911 calls about a suspect in the area who was possibly armed with a knife or a gun. 

Burris and Mann’s family, however, assert the cell phone video now disproves the claim he was holding a knife. Burris emphasized that, in his view, if the officers truly believed Mann was a concealing a gun they would have approached him in an entirely different manner than what the video depicts.

Mann’s family members described him as a person who had worked for Raley’s for 17 years before taking a job with the state of California. They said he began to suffer from mental illness in the wake of his mother’s death three years ago.

Hours after the press conference, Sacramento Police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein told SN&R his department understands how deeply incidents like the Mann shooting affect the community, though he stressed detectives have to walk a difficult line between trying to be transparent and not jeopardizing their overall investigation. Heinlein confirmed that a Sacramento County District Attorney’s investigator will be conducting an independent probe into incident, per standard procedure.

The media gathering at Allen Chapel was attended by Stephen Webb of the Sacramento branch of the NAACP, who told reporters Mann was “another victim of the system”  who was “executed” by veteran officers.

Sacramento Attorney Mark T. Harris also spoke to the crowd after watching the video. “’Oh my God’ is all I have to say,” Harris said.

SN&R is continuing to investigate and report on this story; this article will be updated to reflect any new substantive information.

This story was updated at 4 p.m. August 5 to include new information on the officers.

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