Police sued over teen's death

October 15, 2009 9:52:56 AM PDT
A local couple has filed a lawsuit against the city of Stafford and its police department. It stems from the shooting death of the couple's son. The couple who filed the federal lawsuit say their son had a mental illness. They believe the officer who ended up shooting him was not properly trained to handle the situation.

Pam and Steve Hobart are suing the Stafford police on behalf of their 19-year-old son Aaron Hobart. In February 2009 the Hobarts called 911 after they say their son had a mental episode.

The Hobarts say they specifically told the dispatcher that their son had a mental illness and requested a critical incident officer. Instead, they say, patrol officer Jesus Estrada showed up at their house, got into an altercation with Aaron, then fired six shots. Five of those shots reportedly struck Aaron.

The Hobarts' attorney tells Eyewitness News the case was presented to a grand jury and Officer Estrada was no-billed. Aaron's mother Pam remains angry over how she says the case was handled.

"The first officer that came in there said, 'You got him,'" she recalled. "He said, 'You got him. It's OK, baby.' I'm sorry, that tells me that this officer was trained to execute or to kill."

The lawsuit names the officer involved, the police chief and the entire city of Stafford. The couple says along with the money they are seeking, as a part of this lawsuit they hope the police department will implement stricter rules that officers must follow when dealing with the mentally ill.

Below is the response to the lawsuit issued by the Stafford Police Department.

    The City was informed last night that the Hobart family plans to file a lawsuit today against the City of Stafford, its Chief of Police and one of its police officers in connection with the death of Aaron Hobart.

    Both the City and the Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office conducted comprehensive investigations of the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Hobart's death and these investigations were presented to a Fort Bend County Grand Jury. The City understands the Grand Jury made its own further investigation and this independent body of citizens ? a jury - determined the officer's actions were justified under the deadly circumstances created by Aaron Hobart.

    All investigations have revealed that the Hobart family called the Stafford Police Department and requested assistance because both parents realized Aaron Hobart was such a danger to himself, his family and others that his family could no longer control his unpredictable and violent behavior. A police officer responded at the Hobart family's request. Without any provocation or warning, and within seconds after the officer entered the home, Aaron Hobart charged and viciously attacked the officer. The officer believed his life was in jeopardy due to Mr. Hobart's violent and unprovoked assault so the officer fired in self defense to stop Mr. Hobart's potentially deadly attack. The facts developed during all investigations substantiate the officer's report and the reasonable basis of his belief that his life was in danger when he fired. Accordingly, all indications are that the officer's actions were consistent with the state-mandated law enforcement training which all Texas peace officers receive.

    While City officials are certainly sympathetic to the Hobart's loss, it was the result of their son's violent attack on the officer. The City is not aware of any legitimate basis for any claim against it or any of its officials or employees but it will evaluate the lawsuit thoroughly when it has an opportunity to learn of the allegations raised in the complaint. In light of the circumstances and outcome of the independent investigations which have already been conducted, the City will vigorously defend against any baseless or frivolous claims brought against it or its employees.

    While others may, unfortunately, choose to sensationalize Aaron Hobart's tragic death in the media and make irresponsible, groundless assertions, the responsibilities of public service and the nature of the litigation process are such that City officials cannot now, and will not likely be in a position to, make any further public statements about this matter until the threatened litigation is resolved.

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