CONCORD — A man who was shot by police last year after running away as they tried to arrest him is suing the city and the officer who shot him, alleging the officer failed to use proper tactics and “reasonable” police procedures and that the city failed to stop a pattern of “excessive force” in the department.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court last month, stems from an incident on the evening of March 10, 2018 in which City of Concord police officer Ron Bruckert pulled over an Uber car near the 1500 block of Allegro Avenue near Clayton Road that was carrying passenger Joshua Robertson. Robertson was wanted on a felony arrest warrant out of Contra Costa County on suspicion of robbery, terrorist threats and dissuading a witness and was being investigated for an alleged domestic violence disturbance, police said at the time. They tried to arrest him when he exited the car.
According to the lawsuit, Robertson got out of the car per Bruckert’s commands and immediately ran away from him and toward an “unpopulated” area. Bruckert shot Robertson in the back, and Robertson was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery, the lawsuit claims. It also notes that Robertson was unarmed and “did not threaten or touch” Bruckert.
Robertson survived the shooting, but according to the lawsuit will suffer with lifelong injuries from it.
Roberston, who is being represented by civil rights attorney John Burris, is seeking an unspecified amount in general damages and “special” damages including wage loss, income and medical expenses, punitive damages and the cost of the lawsuit and attorney’s fees.
“Joshua was shot in the back in broad daylight while unarmed and presenting no threat to anyone,” said one of the attorneys representing him, Melissa Nold, from John Burris’ firm. At the time of the arrest and shooting, Robertson was in his third year of law school at UC Hastings, she said.
“Officer Bruckert was not terminated or disciplined for attempting to shoot and kill Mr. Robertson, which was not warranted under state law, federal law or department policy,” Nold said in an email. “The department’s decision to allow Officer Bruckert to continue patrolling the streets after he shot an unarmed man in the back demonstrates the department’s decision to ratify the actions of this officer.”
The lawsuit claims that the city of Concord and police “breached their duty of care to the public” in failing to discipline Bruckert for “shooting an unarmed, non-threatening suspect in the back as he ran away with the intent to kill.” The lack of discipline, the lawsuit says, is demonstrative of an “entrenched culture” and tolerance of excessive force.
Jennifer Ortega, a spokeswoman for the city of Concord, said the city cannot comment on pending litigation. Last year, the police department identified Bruckert — president of the department’s union and a 21-year veteran of the force — as the one who shot Robertson and acknowledged that the suspect had run away when officers tried to arrest him.
The police department and the police union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The district attorney’s office investigated the shooting along with the police department as part of its protocol when police officers are involved in a shooting, but did not file any criminal charges against Bruckert.
Robertson pleaded no-contest to a number of charges that were associated with the county warrant for his arrest, according to the district attorney’s office. He was sentenced to three years and eight months in state prison.
The city last year approved a settlement in which it paid $1.2 million to the family of an Antioch man shot and killed by two Concord police officers in 2013. In that case, in which 21 year-old Charles Burns was shot 11 times by police, an attorney for the officers maintained their action was appropriate and that the settlement was to prevent further litigation.