Jeremy Bordegaray | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

In June, following the death of George Floyd and amid renewed scrutiny over how and when law enforcement officers use physical force against civilians, the Independent filed a California Public Records Act request with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for information on serious use-of-force incidents dating back to 2010. The Sheriff’s Office is releasing the records on a rolling basis, and these reports will be published as the information is made available.

It’s a little before 10 p.m. on October 6, 2013, and Jeremy Bordegaray finds himself in a familiar situation ― handcuffed in the back of a police car. Bordegaray, a repeat drug offender recently out on parole, had just been arrested for breaking into a beach house in a gated Carpinteria community. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office deputies also found a loaded handgun in his backpack and methamphetamine in his truck.

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Somehow, as deputies are searching the house for evidence, Bordegaray manages to slip the cuffs under his legs, break through the cruiser’s plexiglass partition, and squirm into the driver’s seat. The car’s dash-cam captures the moment a tow-truck driver hired to haul away Bordegaray’s truck realizes what’s happening and frantically tries to alert the deputies. Bordegaray throws the car in reverse and guns it out of the driveway as the deputies rush outside to give chase.

What happens next is the focus of an excessive-force lawsuit that settled in 2017 in Bordegaray’s favor, netting him $800,000 in Santa Barbara County taxpayer money

According to the three Sheriff’s Office employees at the scene that night ― Sgt. Daniel Calderon, Deputy Wesley Johnson, and Deputy Sean Hampton ― the patrol car was facing Calderon when Bordegaray stopped reversing and shifted it into drive. In their report, they said Bordegaray then “accelerated quickly, initially in the direction of Sgt. Calderon,” who “feared for his life” and opened fire with his .40 caliber handgun, hitting Bordegaray in the arm and gut.

The dash-cam footage, however, never shows Calderon directly in the path of the cruiser. Bordegaray’s attorneys asserted the sergeant had instead rushed up to the driver’s side window and shot Bordegaray from a 90-degree angle. Bordegaray remembered seeing his blood splatter across the car’s computer screens before he passed out.

“The deputies discussed the ramifications of the incident amongst themselves,” the claim says. “The deputies then colluded and conspired to write police reports containing false and misleading statements in order to cast their actions in a more favorable light. For example, Sergeant Calderon stated that the vehicle ‘came at him’ and that he physically had to move out of the way of the vehicle, which was not true.”

After pulling Bordegaray from the car, the deputies left him “unconscious and bleeding on the pavement for an extended period of time” before calling an ambulance, the claim goes on, referencing a separate audio recording of the incident. When they finally contacted emergency services, they intentionally reported the incident as a traffic accident, not a shooting. Paramedics expressed surprise and concern that the deputies had failed to administer CPR before their arrival as Bordegaray slipped into cardiac arrest.

A Deadly Force Review conducted by the Sheriff’s Office the following January found that the deputies’ actions were “within department policy and procedure.” The District Attorney’s Office determined that Calderon was legally justified in using lethal force.

The $800,000 settlement agreement avoided a civil trial that could have been even more costly to the county if the jury had sided with Bordegaray. It also freed the Sheriff’s Office from admitting any wrongdoing.

The gunshot to Bordegaray’s abdomen caused him to lose 80 percent of his intestines and 40 centimeters of his colon. Before he was transferred to County Jail, he was fitted with a colostomy bag, but staff neglected treating his wounds for so long that they became “green, pussy, and emitted noxious odors,” his lawyers said. The smells were so pungent that a newly hired custody deputy reportedly fainted while trying to change his bandages.

Bordegaray was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to gun and drug charges. He received his payout three years into his term. He has since been released.

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