SALT LAKE CITY — A judge threw out major portions of a lawsuit filed by the widow and mother of a man killed after police entered his Roy home to end a SWAT standoff in 2014.
Claims under state law that police committed willful misconduct and caused the wrongful death of Jose Calzada, 35, on Oct. 21, 2014, were dismissed by U.S. District Judge David Nuffer.
In his Jan. 8 ruling, Nuffer said police conduct did not rise to the Utah civil law standard of “flagrant” action and that police agencies and their employees were protected by the Utah Governmental Immunity Act.
But Nuffer said litigation could continue on the lawsuit’s other claims based on federal law, including allegations of illegal search and seizure and deprivation of Calzada’s constitutional rights.
On behalf of Calzada’s estate, his widow, Maria Calzada, and his mother, Manuela Rosales, both of Roy, filed suit Dec. 6, 2016, naming as defendants Roy City, Weber County, and several individuals, including the three Ogden-Metro SWAT Team members who fired shots at Calzada in his garage.
Calzada called a suicide hotline, saying he was armed and wanted to kill himself. Officers responded to the scene, putting a SWAT team on standby because Calzada said he had weapons.
In police reports, investigators said Calzada warned police not to come into his home. He said if they did, he would be “locked and loaded,” the reports said.
When police lost contact with Calzada after hours of negotiations, the SWAT commander sent officers in to search the house. Eventually, officers found Calzada lying in the trunk of a car with guns, police reports said.
Calzada had a handgun pointed into his mouth, and a rifle was near his head. Upon finding Calzada, officers ordered him to put down the handgun and keep his hands away from the rifle, reports said. After Calzada moved, three officers fired their weapons, investigators said.
An autopsy report showed Calzada suffered 22 gunshot wounds. Investigators later determined Calzada’s weapons weren’t loaded.
The lawsuit claimed Calzada fell asleep after consuming most of a large bottle of whiskey.
Despite a Weber County Attorney’s Office review that found the shooting was justified, the lawsuit said police “had no valid reason for entering Jose's home. It is not illegal to consume alcohol in one's home, to possess firearms in one's home, or to go to sleep in one's home.”
The suit said police did not have a search warrant. “Jose had a constitutional right to have firearms (and) had a constitutional right to stay in his home without fear of police searching it,” it said.
In court documents urging the suit’s dismissal, an attorney representing the government agencies said a search warrant was not necessary in the Calzada standoff.
“Calzada had threatened to kill himself, he had drunk a gallon of Seagrams, and he had more than one firearm on him. The threat to himself and others is clear ... It was completely reasonable to believe he would try to harm himself or someone else if he had not done so already,” attorney Frank Mylar wrote.
“The search was not motivated by an intent to arrest Calzada, but done out of a concern to get him a mental evaluation,” he added.
Those thinking of harming themselves have several resources available:
Weber Human Services emergency or crisis services, 801 625-3700.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah, 801-323-9900
Family Counseling Service of Northern Utah, 801-399-1600
Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital Behavioral Health, 801-387-5600