Sons of fortune
Two mentally ill young men, two officer shootings, two different outcomes
The night before the civil trial began, attorney Stewart Katz was prepared to do anything to get his client into the courtroom. A wheelchair, a gurney, a full medical transport—Katz was prepared to make it happen. That’s because his client, Ted Rose, was dying of terminal cancer and holding on to testify about the killing of his son, Jonathan.
Ted Rose died the morning of the trial.
Katz told SN&R he had remained confident he’d convince a jury that Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy David McEntire wrongfully took the life of Jonathon Rose, an unarmed, schizophrenic 24-year-old, while he was in the arms of his father.
At the time, Katz was representing another parent of another mentally ill young man shot by a frightened law enforcement officer. Katz says the two cases shared similar circumstances and revealed to what lengths the government will go to avoid paying damages to bereaved survivors. Yet they diverged in two critical respects:
One case began with a death, the other eked out a narrow survival. One culminated in a verdict against law enforcement, the other ended in the officer’s vindication.
According to court filings and an interview with Ted Rose before his death, his son was having a mental health episode on January 17, 2012. Ted Rose dialed 911 to see if a peace officer could help. Dispatched to his North Highlands home was McEntire, who was the subject of two other lawsuits for alleged brutality.
Ted Rose told SN&R that by the time McEntire arrived, Jonathan Rose had calmed down and fallen asleep in his bedroom. Without permission, Ted Rose said, McEntire barged into the house and into Jonathan Rose’s room. Ted Rose claimed McEntire woke Jonathan Rose up, threw him into a wall for moving too slowly, and then struck his head with a flashlight.
Ted Rose said he then grabbed his disoriented son to pull him away, and McEntire opened fire. Ted Rose said he felt the bullets enter his son’s body.
McEntire told internal affairs investigators, and then claimed during the recent civil trial, that Jonathan Rose attacked him in the room, making him fear for his life.
With the death of his star witness, Katz was forced into court knowing the only way to present his client’s story was through a video deposition recorded years earlier. After reviewing the deposition of Ted Rose, a previously pro-law enforcement minister and chairman of the United States National Prayer Council, as well as other physical evidence, the jury made its determination in less than two hours.
On September 27, a federal jury in the Eastern District Court granted a wrongful death judgment against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for $6.5 million. Katz pointed out it was one of the only times in recent years that county attorneys attempted to challenge a use of force case at trial, rather than settling behind closed doors.
“They always say they settle these things because it makes financial sense, and that there’s really nothing to worry about,” Katz said. “Well, this time one of their cases was finally put in front of jury, and you can see the results.”
Asked to comment, county counsel simply sent an email saying that the jury had rendered its verdict.
In November 2016, an ailing Ted Rose told SN&R he believed Sacramento County’s contracted attorneys were intentionally drawing the case out with needless continuances so that he, the main witness, would die before trial. SN&R recently asked Katz if he thought the same thing.
“Absolutely,” Katz said. “Ted Rose really wanted to testify. From what I could tell, his only immediate goal was to live long enough to tell the story of what had happened.”
By contrast, a civil jury will never hear what happened to Paul Cantarutti.
Unlike Jonathan Rose, the 30-year-old Cantarutti narrowly survived being shot by an officer claiming self defense. Unlike Rose’s parents, the Cantarutti family’s attempts to hold the government civilly liable ended before it began.
On September 7, Cantarutti pleaded no contest to one count of felony carjacking—a non sequitur crime given that the purported victim, Cantarutti’s mother Linda, denied being carjacked and testified that she had driven her bipolar son to Cesar Chavez Plaza in May 2015 in search of help.
That afternoon, Linda Cantarutti told Sacramento police that her son was experiencing a delusion in which he thought their car was going to explode. When a veteran bicycle officer beckoned Paul Cantarutti to meet him on the sidewalk edging the park, Paul Cantarutti walked across the street clutching a small folding knife. The officer shot Paul Cantarutti three times. He was subsequently charged with attempted assault on a peace officer and evading arrest.
At trial, the prosecution argued that Paul Cantarutti lunged a second before the officer fired his service weapon. The defense argued that Paul Cantarutti was obeying the officer’s commands and almost killed without provocation. Unable to square those two sides, a jury deadlocked on the case this past May.
Both sides were preparing for a retrial when Paul Cantarutti accepted the carjacking conviction in exchange for the other charges being dropped.
The plea squelches the civil claim Linda Cantarutti filed against the city and its police department, said attorney Katz, who represented her. The legal reasons are complicated, Katz says, but because Paul Cantarutti accepted guilt for carjacking his mom, his mom can’t now argue that officers shouldn’t have shot her son.
Cantarutti’s father Michael says his son accepted the deal because he could no longer take being in jail, where he spent nearly a year.
Paul Cantarutti is back there now.
On October 10, police officers responding to reports of an assault in progress arrived on the 4200 block of Raley Boulevard, north of Del Paso Heights, where the purported victim pointed out Paul Cantarutti.
Officer Linda Matthew, a Police Department spokeswoman, said officers were only able to take Cantarutti into custody after a lengthy struggle in which he head-butted an officer and shadowboxed the air. Tasers didn’t work on Cantarutti, described as 5-feet-8-inches tall and 180 pounds in jail logs, but pepper spray did. A booking photo shows Cantarutti with glassy, red-rimmed eyes.
Cantarutti was arraigned on new felony counts of resisting arrest on October 13, which pushed out final judgment on his plea agreement, his public defender said.
As for the male transient that Cantarutti allegedly punched twice in the head, Officer Matthew said he declined to press charges.