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County Will Pay $7 Million for Man’s Death

— February 1, 2019

Allison Irwin called officers to her house, stating her husband Chad was expressing suicidal thoughts. Chad was ultimately fatally shot in a confrontation. Now, Sacramento County will pay $7 million in a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.

As part of a wrongful death lawsuit settlement, Sacramento County is set to pay $7 million to the family of a man who was shot and killed in front of their Citrus Heights home by sheriff’s deputies in 2016.  According to a 2017 Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office review of the case, Chad Irwin, was killed by Officer James Spurgeon on Aug. 18, 2016.  At the time of his death, Irwin had been expressing suicidal thoughts earlier in the day and was under the influence of alcohol and prescription pain medication.

Chad’s wife, Allison Irwin, had called the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to report to deputies that her husband was emotionally and mentally unstable, and in need of medical assistance.  They responded, and at one point, Irwin picked up a knife and told deputies “I know what this is. You guys are going to kill me.”  He took three steps towards them, according to witnesses, and Officer James Spurgeon, a 14-year veteran at the time, fired 11 rounds, striking Irwin seven times.

County Will Pay $7 Million for Man's Death
Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Allison Irwin filed a lawsuit in March 2017, arguing that “because the deputies knew of Irwin’s mental state, Spurgeon’s actions were negligent and reckless.”

“They knew that he was dealing with depression and that he had been drinking,” said Roger Dreyer, the attorney representing Irwin’s family. “This is not somebody that was engaged in a criminal act.  This is someone who was in need of help.”

In a legal deposition, Spurgeon said that when Irwin approached him with a knife, he feared for his life and felt he had taken the only action he could have at the time.  Spurgeon said Irwin was eight to ten feet from him when he fired the fatal rounds.  Deputy David Conger, the other responding deputy who was at the scene that day, contracted Spurgeon, saying in his deposition that Irwin was at least  fifteen feet away from them.

The District Attorney’s Office ultimately ruled the incident was lawful because Spurgeon had good reason to believe Irwin would either kill or seriously injure him or Conger.

“When Irwin brandished the knife with the blade facing out and advanced toward the deputies from only a short distance away, deputy Spurgeon made a split-second decision to fire his handgun at Irwin to defend himself and deputy Conger,” a summary of the shooting review read.

The subsequent settlement, which was reached on January 11, 2019, according to court records, is conditional on the approval of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.  The $7 million payout is one of the largest, if not that  largest, payout in recent years for Sacramento County use-of-force cases.

There have been a few other significant settlements in the county.  Sacramento County agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a 2004 case by Jennifer Graham, whose leg was injured by a sheriff’s K-9 dog, and in 2009, the county paid $1.45 million in the wrongful death case of William Francis Sams, who passed away in the county jail in 2006 after suffering from a perforated ulcer.


Sacramento County poised to pay $7 million in wrongful-death settlement over deputy shooting

Family of Man Fatally Shot by Sheriff’s Deputy to Receive $7 Million From Sacramento County

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