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An Upland Police Officer will pay a $450,000 settlement after he shot a butter-knife wielding Upland resident described by his mother as mentally unwell at the time.

Saul Yonko claimed in an October 2018 Central District of California complaint that Upland Police Officer Randall Layne shot Yonko’s leg Dec. 5, 2017, outside Yonko’s home next to the Upland Hills Country Club.

According to the complaint, Yonko said that Layne had no probable cause or reasonable suspicion a crime occurred, and that Yonko was not a threat.

Layne and the department claimed self defense after Yonko approached Layne with a knife, which was caught on body camera footage.

“Officer Layne would have been overly brave to wait for Saul Yonko, who had already cut himself, to get any closer with the knife,” the city of Upland said in their reply.

The account

Layne’s declaration claimed he arrived after Marilyn Yonko, Saul’s mother, called 911, reporting that Yonko was suicidal.

Body camera footage shared in the case shows Saul running down his driveway seconds after Layne and another officer, Scott Long, arrive.

Marilyn Yonko shouted “He’s got a butter knife.”

Saul ran down the street, toward the officers, and Marilyn ran with him, attempting to block the officer’s range of fire. Layne repeatedly told Saul to drop the knife, and shot him within 13 seconds of Layne’s  arrival.

“In light of the speed Saul Yonko had been running, his failure to drop the knife, his proximity to me and Officer Long, his maneuvering around his mother, I believed that Saul Yonko was attempting to get around his mother and would be able to lunge the knife at me or at Officer Long within a second or two. Therefore, I believed that Saul Yonko posed a significant threat of death or serious bodily (physical) injury to me and Officer Long,” Layne wrote in his declaration.

The suit

Saul Yonko, Marilyn Yonko and Saul’s father Walter Tracy sued the city of Upland and Layne for a violation of Saul Yonko’s Fourth Amendment rights, battery, negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Although Saul Yonko’s case named Upland as a defendant, his complaint did not bring a Monell charge against the city. Because his complaint brought charges only against Layne, California Central District Judge Stephen V. Wilson dismissed the city without prejudice Nov. 13.

Use of force

A San Bernardino district attorney’s review of the shooting later concluded that Layne’s use of force was not unlawful or excessive, according to a court document submitted by Yonko’s attorneys. 

OIS TEAM
The San Bernardino County district attorney’s office started an Officer-Involved Shooting Response Team in March, 2020.
The team is called when a peace officer shoots their firearm resulting in injury or a killing, a person dies in custody after force was involved, or during other lethal encounters. The team conducts an independent review to determine whether the use of force was legal.
The team has released 20 reports between April 7, 2021, and March 29. 

Saul Yonko survived the encounter and sought medical assistance.

He received treatment from the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, AMR MedicWest Ambulance, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Victor Kong of the Kheir Clinic, Pacific Orthopaedic of Alhambra, according to a petition filed by his attorneys.

Marilyn Yonko, who is also Saul’s conservator, and Tracy witnessed the event.

Marilyn said that it should have been apparent that Saul, who is in a conservatorship because of his tachycardia, was mentally unwell or suffering through a mental health crisis during the incident, and Layne should have acted accordingly, according to the lawsuit.

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

From the $450,000 settlement, $180,000 will go to the attorneys’ fee and $86,966.41 to each plaintiff.

Layne was reported as a police detective with Upland Police as of the 2020 government payroll.

Parties

Brian Dunn and Edward Lyman, III, of Los Angeles’ Cochran Firm, and Megan R. Gyongyos of Beverly Hills’ Carpenter & Zuckerman represented the plaintiffs.

Steven J. Rothans and Yaron F. Dunkel, of Los Angeles’ Carpenter, Rothans and Dumont represented Layne.

Stephen Wilson, United States District Judge of the Central District court, presided. 

Case Number: 5:18-cv-02259.

Read the complaint here.

Read the answer to the complaint here.

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