SALT LAKE CITY — SWAT officers gave a Roy man repeated, ample warnings to put down his weapons before and during a fatal confrontation in his garage in 2014, an attorney representing police says.
Jose Calzada refused for hours to come out of his house without weapons, Frank Mylar, representing Ogden and Roy officers and the Weber County SWAT team, said in a court document filed Friday.
Then, when found in his car’s trunk with a pistol and an assault rifle, Calzada would not drop them despite repeated warnings, Mylar wrote.
“Even after he was discovered in the trunk of his car, (police) pleaded with (Calzada) for over six minutes to drop his weapons and leave the trunk peacefully,” Mylar said.
Calzada, 35, died Oct. 21, 2014. His widow, Maria Calzada, and mother, Manuela Rosales, filed suit in U.S. District Court in 2016, alleging police illegally searched his home and used excessive force.
But Mylar argued that a recent briefing filed by the plaintiffs’ attorney “muddles the factual record by mischaracterizing and misconstruing undisputed facts.”
It was the defense’s most extensive response to date regarding the 5-year-old case.
In documents filed in July, the Calzadas’ attorney, L. Miles LeBaron, contended that Calzada did not want police on his property. But Mylar’s brief said Calzada repeatedly told officers he would not come outside without his guns.
“Although Mr. Calzada stated that he did not intend harm to others, his unwillingness to come out without his weapons suggests otherwise,” Mylar wrote. “Mr. Calzada knew that coming out with his guns would lead to violence.”
Calzada, an Army veteran, had called a suicide hotline. Police were alerted by the hotline and went to his house. That began a nearly 7-hour standoff as a SWAT negotiator tried to get Calzada, who had been drinking heavily, to come out so they could get him some help.
They finally decided to enter his house after he ended their phone conversation.
In response to LeBaron’s argument that police gave confusing and contradictory warnings after they found Calzada, Mylar said LeBaron was “looking for magic words.”
“However, it is undisputed,” Mylar said, that officers told Calzada to let go of the guns, let the pistol fall to his chest, and the SWAT members would help him get out of the trunk.
Another officer told Calzada if he dropped the weapons “things could still end peacefully,” according to Mylar.
“The facts clearly show (Calzada) was instructed numerous times to drop his weapon but he did not comply with any of them,” Mylar said.
Police said they fired at Calzada after he appeared to be trying to trigger the AR-15 rifle and moved the pistol. SWAT officers shot 11 rounds at Calzada, who died immediately.
Police later learned Calzada’s weapons were not loaded.
Mylar also rebutted LeBaron’s assertion that a search warrant obtained by Roy police before they entered the house was incomplete and insufficient.
LeBaron said the warrant did not specify the cars in the garage were subject to search.
“The consent did not need to specifically mention the vehicles as long as they were within the attached garage,” Mylar said.
The lawsuit charged that police violated Calzada’s constitutional right to be protected against unreasonable search and that police used excessive force against him.
Mylar wrote Friday that the officers should be granted “qualified immunity” from civil liability because they acted reasonably.
“After a protracted negotiation, (police) made difficult choices that they determined were most likely to lead to (Calzada) surviving this incident,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that his life could not be saved, but just because he was killed does not, and cannot, lead to constitutional liability for (police) in this instance. Defendants made difficult choices in a stressful situation and these choices were all objectively reasonable.”