Civil rights attorney John Burris and his law firm have returned to the public eye for the lawsuit regarding the shooting of Mikel McIntyre. Burris will be representing the plaintiff, McIntyre’s mother, and infant son.
The situation surrounding the shooting of McIntyre involves differing narratives, the lack of the officer or officers’ identities involved, and an autopsy report that has not been released for over 13 months.
"It is an especially egregious display of excessive force when a young unarmed black man in obvious mental and emotional distress is shot multiple times in the back while attempting to flee in fear of his life," Burris in a statement.
According to Burris, the McIntyre family begged for help but the Rancho Cordova Police Department and Sacramento Sheriff’s Department failed them.
The narrative from the Sherriff’s Department was covered by ABC10 when authorities had responded to a call of an assault on the 10800 block of Olson Drive on May 8. The suspect, eventually identified as McIntyre, was said to have been hitting and choking a female inside of her vehicle and attempting to pull her out of the car.
After the suspect allegedly began fighting with an officer, McIntyre was said to have picked up a river rock and struck the officer over the head. The officer fired his gun at the suspect, and according to the sheriff’s department, McIntyre fled and eventually tried to strike deputies. The two deputies fired their weapons and struck the suspect. Despite life-saving measures being done on the suspect, he succumbed to injuries at a local hospital.
The family and Burris’s law firm present a different narrative of what happened that day. Their account of the situation details an attempt by the family to seek assistance for mental health services two times and alleges that they were denied that assistance from the City of Rancho Cordova.
In a statement, Burris and his law firm claim McIntyre had displayed “an undiagnosed mental health problem,” and authorities refused to take in McIntyre for mental health evaluation “despite his dissociative behavior and inability recognize family members.”
Authorities responded for a third time after receiving a call regarding McIntyre behaving “bizarrely” in a shopping center. After the police were called and McIntyre’s mother relayed her concerns, McIntyre fled from an officer and the officer pursued. The firm addresses eyewitness reports claiming the officer fell onto the ground and hit his head on a rock. Following that, the officer(s) opened fire on a fleeing McIntyre.
In this narrative, McIntyre was pursued by Sacramento Sheriff Deputies and, one or more deputies shot McIntyre in the back multiple times despite being unarmed and running away.
The City of Rancho Cordova and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department were asked for comment, but, no response has been immediately received.
Why the attorney matters
According to Golden Gate University, Burris “casts a long shadow both in person and in civil rights law.”
John Burris is a civil rights attorney who has defended high profile clients and has taken on high profile cases since starting in 1985.
He was named one of California’s leading 100 attorneys by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal, has achieved an award for legal excellence from the National Bar Association, and the American Trial Lawyers Association named him as one of California’s top 100 lawyers.
His law firm is in Oakland, and, although he was initially focused on criminal defense when his office was formed, it shifted to civil rights litigation, according to the law firm’s website. He and his counsel have represented public officials and other clients ranging from former San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders, Rodney King, Tupac Shakur, NFL player Keyshawn Johnson, and others.
Among many cases that he has represented in the City of Oakland and other cities, one of his most notable cases was the Oakland Riders case.
Higgs, et al. v. City of Oakland was a class action police brutality suit against Oakland Police, known as the “Riders.” He represented 119 victims who were arrested after having drugs planted on them by officers. The suit included individuals who experienced excessive force, individuals who went to jail for a year, and others who went to state prison for five years.
The case was settled for $10.9 million and saw a number of reforms implemented.