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Ron Ely Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department

— October 9, 2020

Earlier this month, Ron Ely filed an amended wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

A federal lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of actor Ron Ely over the death of his wife, Valeria, and son, Cameron. The initial wrongful death suit was filed last summer, but an amended complaint was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. According to the complaint, Ely’s fourth and 14 amendment rights were violated, as were his civil rights, state law, and the state Tort Claims Act.

Silhouette of a gun. Image via Flickr/user:leasepics. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The complaint names the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Barbara County as defendants. Specifically, the suit names the deputies “involved in the shooting of 30-year-old Cameron Ely, including Sgt. Desiree Thome, Deputy Jeremy Rogers, Deputy Phillip Farley, and Deputy John Gruttadaurio.” But what happened?

According to the suit, Cameron called 911 around 8 p.m. on October 15, 2019, asking for emergency personnel at their residence in Hope Ranch. Why? Well, according to Cameron, “his mother, Decedent Valerie, 62, was attacking his father.” The call ended abruptly before dispatchers could ask questions. Dispatch immediately called back and Ron answered, “though he was unable to clearly communicate with dispatchers due to medical difficulties.” He attempted to respond verbally many times, according to the suit. 

The suit further states that Ron was “crying and expressing painful emotion and that an unidentifiable female voice, presumed to be Valerie, was heard in the background indicating she was alive during the second call.” It adds:

“Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dispatch incorrectly aired to responding deputies that the caller had reported that his father was attacking his mother. They further aired that upon calling back they heard only heavy breathing and crying.”

Deputies were immediately dispatched to the scene, but not medical personnel. When the deputies arrived around 8:15 p.m., they found Valerie “lying on the floor of the dining room, having suffered from multiple stab wounds.” The suit alleges the “deputies did not know and failed to check if Valerie was alive when they arrived.” She was in “obvious need of immediate medical care, but medical personnel was not on the scene,” the suit argues. 

To make matters worse, the suit claims the deputies on the scene “actively obstructed county fire personnel from providing treatment and that Valerie was left on the floor without any medical treatment or care for more than 30 minutes.” Around 8:40 p.m., she was pronounced dead. Then, around 9:40 p.m., “Cameron was seen walking down the driveway from the backyard with his hands up.” According to dashboard footage from the night, deputies “instructed Cameron to keep his hands up, though they did not ask any questions or announce they were with the Sheriff’s Office.” 

As he approached the officers, he was “bleeding from his lower body and was suffering from a torn MCL and meniscus.” It was soon determined he had been “stabbed multiple times.” On the footage, a deputy can be heard asking “for gloves before contacting Cameron due to the blood.” Then suddenly, without warning, “multiple deputies opened fire and struck Cameron 22 times,” according to the lawsuit. The shooting happened even though Cameron had his hands up in the universal sign of surrender.

The suit argues the deputies “negligently assessed the circumstances that existed prior to the shooting and that Cameron was unarmed, nonviolent and acting calmly during the entirety of the short encounter…there was no reason for Defendant Deputies to use any force, especially deadly force.” 

As a result of the shooting, Cameron “was left to bleed out in the driveway for more than 13 minutes before medics were permitted to assess him,” the suit states. Ron had to learn about the shooting when he was in the hospital, as he was rushed there before the shooting. 

Two detectives later said that, before the shooting, “Cameron had stabbed Valerie and fled to justify the use of force.” However, the suit argues the detective’s statement was a lie and was instead a “purposeful and/or grossly negligent misrepresentation to conceal the deputies’ errors.” Additionally, the detectives said the deputies’ “body cameras did not capture the incident and were turned off to preserve the battery life of the recorders,” the suit states.

As a result, the suit argues the Sheriff’s office “breached their duty of care by not disciplining the deputies.” Additionally, the suit argues the Sheriff’s office “acted in concert while engaged in a repeated pattern and practice of using excessive, arbitrary and/or reasonable force and failed to address the victims who were suffering from serious medical needs.” 

The shooting remains under investigation. As part of the suit, Ron is seeking a jury trial and compensatory, general, special, and punitive damages, among others.


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