‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.



Ron Ely, center, has sued the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office over the death of his wife, Valerie, and their son, Cameron.

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Tarzan actor and Hope Ranch resident Ron Ely has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for the 2019 deaths of his wife, Valerie, and their son, Cameron. 

The lawsuit claims that the five deputies who responded to a 9-1-1 call at the Ely residence the night of October 15 neglected to give timely medical aid to 62-year-old Valerie, whom authorities say Cameron had stabbed, and then shot 30-year-old Cameron 22 times as he attempted to surrender to them unarmed with his hands in the air.

“The reprehensible conduct of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department Deputies was egregious, entirely unreasonable, and, accordingly, unconstitutional,” states the civil claim, which was filed in July and seeks an unspecified amount of punitive damages. Ely is represented by Los Angeles attorney DeWitt M. Lacy, who specializes in police misconduct cases and in recent years has secured high-dollar verdicts and settlements against the cities of Santa Clara, Antioch, and Alameda.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Raquel Zick said the department could not comment on the pending litigation. The incident itself remains under criminal investigation, and the District Attorney’s Office review of the shooting is ongoing, as well.

One of the active-duty deputies involved, Jeremy Rogers, has now been sued three times in connection with the deaths of five Santa Barbara County residents. His two previous cases were settled by the county for a combined $5.5 million.



The Ely lawsuit relies on 9-1-1 transcripts and an audio recording of the shooting for its allegations, and it contradicts many of the public statements made by the Sheriff’s Office in the days following the incident. It notes none of the deputies had their body cameras turned on at the time of the shooting. The Independent obtained a copy of the audio recording through a public records request.

According to the lawsuit, Cameron Ely called 9-1-1 at approximately 8 p.m., asking that deputies be sent to his family’s home at 4141 Mariposa Drive because his mother was attacking his father. The call then abruptly ended.

Dispatchers tried calling Cameron back, the suit says. Ron answered instead. Due to an existing medical condition, Ron could not verbally communicate with the dispatchers. They heard him crying and trying to speak. “An unidentifiable female voice, presumed to be Decedent Valerie, was heard in the background of this call indicating Decedent Valerie was alive when the second call occurred,” the filing says.

Sergeant Desiree Thome, Deputy Jeremy Rogers, Deputy Phillip Farley, and Deputy John Gruttaduario arrived at the house 15 minutes later. They found Valerie on the floor of the dining room with multiple stab wounds to her chest. “Defendant Deputies did not know, and failed to check, if Decedent Valerie was alive when they arrived,” the suit states. Medical personnel were then allegedly blocked from entering the home for over 30 minutes, and by the time they reached Valerie at 8:42 p.m., she was pronounced dead.

An hour later, at approximately 9:40 p.m., the deputies had congregated outside in the driveway when they saw Cameron walking from around the back of the house and down the driveway towards them. The lawsuit notes, and the audio recording confirms, the deputies ordered Cameron to “keep” his hands up, indicating his hands were already raised as he approached. 

Cameron was bleeding from several stab wounds to his lower abdomen, the lawsuit says. It is not made clear if he had been attacked or if his injuries were self-inflicted. He was also suffering from a torn MCL and meniscus in his right knee. In the recording, one of the deputies asks for gloves. Cameron was covered in blood. “Keep your hands up, okay?” a deputy gently tells him. “Keep your hands up.”

“Suddenly, and without any warning or legal justification, multiple Defendant Deputies opened fire on Decedent Cameron, striking him a total of 22 times with bullets from several department issued weapons,” the claim states. “The shooting occurred less than 20 seconds after Defendant Deputies saw Decedent Cameron walk around the corner with his hands up, the universal act of surrender.” 

Sheriff’s officials have publicly claimed that Cameron announced to the deputies that he had a gun, “advanced” towards them, then “motioned with his hands as if he were drawing a weapon.” None of those assertions are reflected in the recording. 

Cameron was left to bleed to death for 13 minutes before medical personnel were allowed to assess him, the lawsuit says. “Decedent Cameron was unarmed, nonviolent, and acting calmly during the entirety of the short encounter. He did not make any aggressive movements or furtive gestures nor did he utter any threats which would have led a reasonable Sheriff’s deputy to believe that he posed a risk of death or serious bodily injury to anyone.”

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors discussed the case this Tuesday in a closed-session meeting. County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni declined to comment on the content of that meeting or any of the allegations in the lawsuit. “[The County Counsel’s Office] generally does not comment about ongoing litigation,” he explained, “particularly when plaintiffs have requested a jury that might be exposed to pre-trial publicity.”

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 October 15, 2019: Wife and Son Killed in Tarzan Actor's Hope Ranch Home

 October 29, 2019: Officers Identified in Shooting of Unarmed Hope Ranch Murder Suspect

 August 27, 2020: One Santa Barbara Deputy, Five Violent Deaths

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forrealnews Sep 30, 2020 01:03 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

This a tremendously sad situation, and I really hope he gets a lot of emotional support. That kind of loss, so suddenly, and in such a tragic way is too much. Sadly, this kind of thing happens to families of color (especially black and native) even more, and depending on how this case turns out, we may see the difference between a wealthy, white man fighting this system versus BIPOC families.

a-1601501023 Sep 30, 2020 02:23 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

GIFTEDINSB - you clearly don't understand law. If the SBSO's actions (or inaction in this case) caused her to die, then they are at fault. It's simple really. If the SBSO could have saved her life, but for some reason did not take that action (as it sounds), then they can be found liable in some form. The allegations above indicate the cops did not check on her and prevented medical care from reaching her. If these actions are found to be the cause of her death, they are liable. Yes, the son stabbed her, but she may have lived, had they taken other actions. That is the crux of this, not emotions or who stabbed her.

Vic3smuk Oct 01, 2020 07:48 AM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Giftedinsb but the sheriffs did kill his son and only reason we know this is because a cop leaked the recording. If not we would still be assuming and believing the statement they made the next day saying he had a weapon and that his son was yelling saying he has weapons when in fact the audio recording never record his son. Ps it was a Santa Barbara police officer that leaked the Audio recording so that the sheriffs can’t get away with shit like that. We need that killer off the streets!!!!! Ps if you get pulled over by the sheriffs call 911 tell them your scared for your life thinking it can be officer Rogers pulling you over Hence your scared that if you move he’s gunna kill you lol

avocadogrower Sep 30, 2020 01:16 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Police officers should be required to carry liability insurance – just like doctors, contractors, and people who drive cars – anyone who puts themselves in a position where they might hurt others. The police unions should pay the premiums. If they are involved in a mishap that is their responsibility, their premiums will go up. At that point the unions can decide if they want to cover the additional cost or if they should let them go.

doulie Sep 30, 2020 04:02 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Did I not read this report correctly? For me there are many unanswered questions. Where were Ron & Cameron located on the deputies arrival (at 2015)? I find it hard to believe deputies did not check for other persons in the residence and the immediate area outside. What did I miss? I didn't read anything regarding Ron's location at the scene from start to finish in this article. It's reported deputies were congregated in the driveway 25-minutes (after) they arrived. It is at this time (now 40 minutes after deputies arrival) Cameron is observed as he is walking from the back of the house, down the driveway and towards the deputies. It appears Cameron's hands may have been up, but, was he holding anything? Within 20-seconds of being told to keep his hands up, Cameron is shot 22 times. As reported, I find it hard to believe he bled for 13-minutes before medical personnel were allowed to check him. I wasn't there so I suspect there was a safety reason for the delay. I find it hard to believe deputies would observe any person (Valerie) on a floor with multiple stab wounds and not render assistance for what may be approximately 27-minutes (time of deputies arrival until time Valerie was checked). During this time it's reported medical personnel were not permitted into the area, I presume to check Valerie. Again, another safety reason? As to the shooting itself. That's a whole different can of worms that can only be resolved by the statement of each deputy involved. Who shot first and why? There may be a legal reason not yet reported.

a-1601526555 Sep 30, 2020 09:29 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

I am not arguing evidence. I am not taking a side. I didn't even read the entire article.
But once upon a time we, the general public, would've said it is hard to believe a law enforcement officer would hold his knee on a person's neck for 8 minutes. And we would say many other actions were hard to believe. I'm old enough to remember Rodney King's beating.

Shmonk Sep 30, 2020 04:22 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

"“Defendant Deputies did not know, and failed to check, if Decedent Valerie was alive when they arrived,” the suit states. Medical personnel were then allegedly blocked from entering the home for over 30 minutes, and by the time they reached Valerie at 8:42 p.m., she was pronounced dead."

This alone should be a win for Ely. Negligent piggies don't care if our citizens die.

doulie Sep 30, 2020 09:04 PM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Winter - It doesn't matter where this incident occurred. Common sense tells me this type of call could occur anywhere in the county, day or night, large property or small. If the deputies actions occurred as reported I'll guess it was due to inadequate training. If, as you say, "the cops didn't know what they were walking into," I'm guessing they were not properly trained. With a supervisor on this call how did so much seemingly go wrong?

a-1601569739 Oct 01, 2020 09:28 AM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Repicture this entire scenario. What would have happened if the police had not shown up and mother was left to bleed and crazed son with the weapon was let loose in the neighborhood. . Or if they just sent out a social worker to attend to the mother and talk down the son. Then work backwards to any changes that happened after the police did in fact show up. Situation messy by all accounts. Monday morning quarterbacking by a lawyer for the mentally incompetent survivor is fraught with unearned peril.

Ms.JBG Oct 01, 2020 11:09 AM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

Just to clarify for those who may not know, EMS (Paramedics, EMTs, Fire) can only enter the scene once it’s been safely cleared. That means the suspect has to be in custody or determined to have left the scene before they can come in and give aid. If this protocol is not followed there is potential for more injuries and/or casualties.

PitMix Oct 02, 2020 09:37 AM
‘Tarzan’ Actor Ron Ely Sues Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office over Family Deaths

They need to look at their training methods. They did this in San Diego a few years ago after the cops killed a bunch of people, the last one being a guy holding a bricklayer's trowel. They found the training included a video of all of the very rare and unusual ways that cops had been injured, one by being stabbed with a pen in the neck. This was putting the cops on edge, and making the mantra- Rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6- their modus operandi. Changed the training, and civilian deaths decreased.

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