RED BLUFF – A year after a shooting took the lives of five Tehama County residents, lawsuits have been filed against the Tehama County Sheriff's Office over allegations that the police did not take the necessary actions to prevent the shooting from taking place.
Peter Vujin, a Miami-based attorney, commented on the legal challenges that surround this case and the responsibility of law enforcement.
"The Tehama Sheriff's Office is aware of the law of negligence, as it has attorneys working for it, like every other police agency in the United States," Vujin told the Northern California Record.
Vujin explained that it was important to understand the concept of assumption of responsibility in order to fully appreciate the specifics of this case.
"Once someone assumes a duty—a responsibility—they also assume the duty to perform that responsibility without negligence," Vujin said. "The sheriff's office refused to outright do anything substantial because that would be the 'assumption of duty' and if Mr. [Kevin] Neal later did something evil, the sheriff's office would be responsible for damages."
The lawsuits filed allege that the police knew about the risk that the shooter, Neal, posed to the community but failed to take action, even after he was forbidden from possessing firearms through a restraining order. Neal killed two neighbors and two individuals at a local elementary school, as well as his own wife, in November 2017.
"The police must be held morally responsible, and the police know it," Vujin said. "I predict that the sheriff's office will quietly settle this out of court in order to avoid bad publicity."
Vujin said the motivation for a quiet settlement would include the fact that the sheriff of Tehama County, Dave Hencratt, recently ran for and won the primary for sheriff's position in June.
"This has now become a political matter, and the sheriff needs the votes to keep his job," Vujin said.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are relatives of those who were killed and survivors, who are being represented by Barr & Mudford, who are seeking damages over allegations negligent supervision, failure to train or supervise, failure to perform mandatory duties, in addition to other causes. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Sacramento.