The parents of slain UC Santa Barbara students refiled a lawsuit against Isla Vista apartment property managers alleging they were legally obligated to do more to prevent the shooting that left six dead on May 23, 2014.
A federal court dismissed the suit, which previously included the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department as well as the property managers, in October. The parents of deceased students David Wang, James Hong and George Chen refiled the lawsuit in Santa Barbara County Court on Nov. 20.
The U.S. District Court found that the parents’ constitutional rights were not violated. The judge ruled that authorities did not act with deliberate indifference and their policies did not cause the plaintiffs’ injuries.
The families allege that Capri Apartments, where they lived, and its Texas-based management firm Asset Campus Housing were negligent because they failed to evict the killer and did not warn the roommates of his violent and erratic behavior.
The case and its deliberation will likely have a significant impact on determining how much responsibility landlords and property managers bear.
The shooter had a history of documented violent outbursts over a three-year period that he lived at Capri Apartments in Isla Vista, according to the complaint.
In their suit, plaintiff attorneys Becker Law Group and McNicholas & McNicholas allege that the troubled tenant had a history of violence and prejudice against roommates and stated he was moved several times to find a better match.
One roommate feared for his life, according to the filing.
A roommate wrote in a letter to Capri that the tenant was like a “ticking time bomb waiting to explode, and the only way to solve this problem is by removing it,” the suit reads. “We are at the point where I fear for my safety.”
Capri eventually assigned Wang and Hong to live with the killer without conducting a reasonable investigation into the tenant, or warning the new roommates about his violent tendencies, according to the complaint.
“Defendants knew or should have known the racial biases, mental illness and dangerous propensities of (the killer) and knew or should have known that it was highly foreseeable he would cause harm to any potential roommate.”
On April 30, 2014, sheriff’s deputies performed a wellness check on the killer after a mental health worker saw troubling videos he posted to YouTube. Following that check, the property managers failed to warn the roommates, the lawsuit claims.
The parents seek unspecified compensation for psychological damage, medical expenses and legal fees.
“One of our main issues is to fix the system,” plaintiff attorney Todd Becker previously told the Business Times. “This has happened in so many places around the country. We need changes in how things are done.”
In a related case, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle dismissed a complaint on Dec. 9 against the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and UC Regents.
UCSB student Antoine Cherchian survived four gunshots sustained while riding a skateboard on Sabado Tarde Road on May 23, 2014. The suit alleges that county and university officers should’ve investigated the shooter earlier, based on his violent behavior, online rants and threats. It was a violation of their policy manual, according to the filing.
“Cherchian does not allege the specific enactment upon which this action is based,” Anderle wrote in his ruling. “Instead, Cherchian refers generally to various policy manuals of the defendants.”
Santa Paula waste water firm sold
Patriot Environmental Services acquired Santa Clara Waste Water Co. despite looming criminal lawsuits related to an industrial explosion at its plant near Santa Paula.
Under the agreement, which is pending final regulatory approval, Patriot purchased the assets of Anaheim-based wastewater treatment company Green Compass, which has three facilities in California. That includes the plant at 815 Mission Rock Road.
Santa Clara and Green Compass officials plan to appear in court for a Jan. 14 arraignment concerning alleged counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, reckless handling of hazardous waste and failure to warn of serious concealed danger.
The Nov. 18, 2014 chemical spill injured dozens of workers and firefighters and ruined $1 million in crops.
The plant has been shut down since the spill. The facility includes a brine line that helps divert saltwater that could potentially contaminate Santa Paula’s groundwater.
Former Santa Paula Mayor John Proctor said reopening a better-managed facility would help reduce illegal dumping.
“I’m a little surprised by the sale because of the stigma and pending investigation but I’m pretty confident that Patriot is a well-established outfit,” he said. “They will be under the microscope. They must’ve bought it with eyes wide open.”
• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]