SAN JOSE -- The family of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by police in 2011 after he allegedly rammed into three cars has filed a federal wrongful-death suit against the San Jose Police Department, seeking unspecified damages and further details about the circumstances of the death.
The lawsuit was filed last week in an Oakland federal court in the case of Varun Kumar, a 32-year-old man who died Oct. 28, 2011, in a wild confrontation with officers during which he was hit with Tasers and eventually shot when one officer thought Kumar was reaching for a weapon. It was later determined he did not have one.
The city of San Jose, Chief Chris Moore, Sgt. Sergio Carabarin -- the officer who fired the fatal shot -- and Officers Ryan Kimber and Phil Juan, who fired their Tasers, and 50 other unnamed parties are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
City Attorney Rick Doyle declined to comment in detail, saying his office his reviewing the complaint.
"This family has had a great deal of pain and anguish over this shooting," said Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris. "They have uncertainty about what happened. My effort here is to find the truth of it."
According to police, officers responded the morning of Oct. 28, 2011, to a report of a man waving a gun around at an apartment complex on Wooster Avenue near McKee Road and Highway 101. There they found Kumar driving a car they determined was stolen. Police say Kumar then rammed into a patrol car, forcing the officers to leap out of the way.
Kumar then backed into another parked car, and Kimber and Juan fired their Tasers at the driver. The car got stuck after hitting another parked car, and Carabarin approached the driver's side. Police say Carabarin saw Kumar reaching for what appeared to be a gun. The sergeant opened fire, fatally wounding Kumar.
In the following days, it was revealed Kumar had an extensive criminal record that included arrests for offenses involving drugs, theft and evading police. Kumar's family said at the time of the death that while they acknowledged his troubled past, they believed the use of force was excessive, and his history did not justify the killing.
The main plaintiffs in the case, Kumar's parents, echo those sentiments in their filing, which claims Kumar was not doing anything illegal and was in the process of surrendering to officers when the deadly confrontation erupted. It also argues Kumar rammed into the vehicles as a result of a loss of body control from being stunned by Tasers, a chronology that conflicts with the police account.
Kumar's family described having trouble getting information about the death from authorities, forming part of their motivation for the suit, which seeks a jury trial to resolve the matter.
"There's some factual disputes about that to me," Burris said. "This is an example where police are less than transparent."
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.