Rushing claim rejected, Phillips family suing city
Scott Rushing has found himself busier than usual at his real estate brokerage in Ventura—driving to work is the only thing that’s helped distract him from becoming overwhelmed with grief.
Last year, Rushing and his wife, Paula, lost their only son, Tyler, 34, during a standoff with Chico police officers.
Since Tyler’s death, the Rushings have become close with another family, connected through nightmarish circumstances. Rushing said he speaks regularly with David Phillips, the father of Desmond, a 25-year-old man who was shot and killed by Chico police March 17 of last year while he was experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Both boys needed help,” Rushing said. “They didn’t need bullets. They needed medical attention.”
As of Feb. 20, both families had filed claims against the city of Chico for damages and attorney’s costs associated with their sons’ deaths, and both of those claims were denied. Rushing also filed a claim against Butte County, which was rejected as well.
Both killings were declared justified by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, based on the results of investigations conducted by the Butte County Officer Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Protocol Team. In each report, self defense is referenced as a motivating factor of the officers’ actions, claiming they feared for their lives and the lives of others.
Rushing was killed July 23, when an armed security guard responded to an alarm at a title company in downtown Chico. Upon locating a broken window, the guard engaged in an altercation with Rushing, who slashed him with a glass flower pot shard. The guard, Edgar Sanchez, shot him. When police arrived at the scene, Rushing was wounded inside a restroom and refused to come out, claiming at one point he had a gun. During an eventual encounter, Rushing stabbed two other officers using a ballpoint pen and a shard from a broken toilet, and was bitten by a Butte County Sheriff’s Office K-9 dog and shot twice by then-Chico Sgt. Scott Ruppel.
That’s the basic narrative of events as relayed by the district attorney. However, the Rushings’ story differs in key areas about the night their son died. Their claim alleges that Sanchez shot Rushing “at least one time” and then fired numerous additional rounds as Tyler fled. In the DA’s investigation report, Sanchez is said to have fired just once.
The Rushings’ claim also states that Ruppel’s second shot was fired “execution-style” to the back of Tyler’s neck, compared with the investigation report’s account that the second shot was fired as Rushing twisted away from the officer.
The Rushings allege that the behavior of the officers involved was negligent and/or intentional, and would not have resulted in the death of their son had they “conducted themselves appropriately” or “exercised due care.” Scott Rushing called the officers’ actions “brutal,” and said it was clearly a case of “excessive force to the max.” The family is pursuing a private investigation.
Ramsey’s report notes that the officers attempted to use nonlethal methods of a ballistic shield, K-9 unit, beanbag shotgun and their own hands before shooting.
While Tyler did not have a history of mental illness and toxicology reports found nothing more than a moderate amount of marijuana in his system, investigators believe he was “under the influence of an undetected drug(s) given the altered state of reality” demonstrated by his bizarre, violent behavior and “extraordinary strength and endurance” during the encounter.
Scott Rushing said something just “doesn’t add up.” Tyler did not indicate in conversations with his family that he needed money or food, or that he was feeling aggressive or confrontational. Rushing said his son could have easily been “out of his mind with pain” that night, or from the blood loss and shock.
Accounts from Ramsey’s report note that while some people who came into contact with Tyler before his death spoke of his gentle demeanor, others said he acted strangely, not “completely rational” or “‘extremely high’ and aggressively spiritual.”
While Rushing’s work may be distracting him from grief, it’s not distracting him from his mission—to serve as an advocate for families that have lost loved ones in officer-involved shootings.
“I’m 64, and the new goal the rest of my life will be to push for dash cams to be required; body cams to be required; nonlethal force to be the first thing used on all these suicidal, barricaded [or] mental health cases,” he said.
Rushing said he’s going to pursue his options, and may sue the city of Chico, Butte County and Armed Guard Private Protection, the company that employed Sanchez.
Desmond Phillips’ family members have tasked themselves with a similar mission.
As of Jan. 23, David Phillips, along with Desmond’s mother, Delphine Norman, and two of Desmond’s nephews, represented by a high-powered Bay Area civil rights attorney, had filed a lawsuit against the city in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.
John Burris, known for his work in police excessive force cases, has most notably represented Rodney King, Tupac Shakur and the family of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in 2009.
In the complaint, the family alleges that police did not use any “significant de-escalation tactics” or adequately accommodate Desmond’s “obvious disability,” though there was time and opportunity to do so on the night he was killed by Chico police officers.