Family of Palo Alto man killed by police won't pursue lawsuit

City rejects claim in the death of William David Raff

The mother of a man who was fatally shot by Palo Alto police in December 2015 won't pursue a lawsuit after the City of Palo Alto rejected her claim, she said on Thursday, July 28.

William David Raff, who had mental-health issues, was killed by police when he charged at officers with a table knife on Christmas night. He had schizophrenia and had been transferred four days earlier from a locked psychiatric facility to transitional housing at La Selva House, a facility for persons recovering from acute mental illness or substance abuse on the 600 block of Forest Avenue.

Raff's mother, Tina Cremer, filed a wrongful-death claim with the city in March for an unspecified sum related to loss of support both economic and non-economic, medical, funeral and burial expenses and other causes. The claim alleged that police knew the Forest Avenue address was a group home for persons with mental illnesses and also that they were likely to encounter someone with a mental illness.

The Palo Alto officers are trained in de-escalation, use of communication techniques in crisis situations and modes for keeping themselves tactically safe in order to give the disturbed person time to calm down, but they failed to use or adequately employ that training, according to the claim.

The city rejected her claim on May 2, Terrence Howzell said for the City Attorney's office.

Raff allegedly called police dispatch to report a disturbance. When officers arrived Raff rushed from the building into the dark street and charged at the officers while shrieking. Two officers, later identified as Nicholas Enberg and Zachary Wicht, fired their pistols at him. Raff was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office released a 31-page report in May on the death of Raff along with a video of the 19-second confrontation captured by four cameras mounted on the police cruisers, which showed Raff running at the officers.

An employee at La Selva asked them not to shoot and said that Raff was only carrying "a butter knife." Officers said they did not hear the employee.

The officers did not have time to take other defensive action, according to the report by the District Attorney's Office. The investigation found that Raff was intent at dying at the hands of police officers and he had deliberately lured them to the scene. No criminal charges were filed against the officers.


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