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Family to sue SD Harbor cops for shooting

July 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The San Diego Harbor Police Department is facing a lawsuit over the officer-involved shooting death of a West Hollywood man. It happened after police rescued him from the San Diego Bay.Clutching Steven Hirschfield's picture, devastated family members gather with their attorney to announce they plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the San Diego Harbor Police Department.

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"We're devastated," said Al Hirschfield, Steven's father. "He was a very wonderful young man. He had everything to live for."

Family members say the officers' account of what happened last Saturday doesn't add up.

The 37-year-old dancer had been hired to entertain passengers aboard a Gay Pride Day yacht when he fell overboard.

According to police, when Hirschfield was pulled from San Diego Bay by Harbor Police, he became combative and began to fight with the officers.

He allegedly knocked one of them down, grabbed the officer's stun gun and hit him in the face with it.

Police say Hirschfield then reached for the officer's revolver. That's when the second officer fired, killing the man they had just rescued.

"This is not a case of Steven Hirschfield attacking a police officer," said Brian Claypool, the Hirschfield family's attorney. "This is a case about irresponsible, renegade, insensitive police practices and procedures."

Attorney Brian Claypool claims the police officers may have been biased.

"I believe that this officer may have had preconceived notions against gay men and that affected how quickly he pulled out his gun," said Claypool.

Hirschfield's family is seeking $20 million in damages. They say filing a lawsuit is the only way to hold the police department accountable.

Harbor Police say they cannot comment on the allegations since they have yet to see the lawsuit.

 

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