Federal lawsuit filed against six Antioch Police officers in racist text scandal, three chiefs, City

Seeks monetary damages, department practice and policy changes, court monitoring; labels officers’ actions a “conspiracy”

By Allen D. Payton

Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris and associates filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for Northern California on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, against five current Antioch Police officers and one former officer, for their racist and other offensive texts and mistreatment of citizens, plus, three current and past police chiefs, the City of Antioch and Does 1-100. (See related articles here and here)

The texts sent and received by multiple officers on their personal cell phones mentioned at least one Antioch resident, as well as suspects in crimes being investigated by some of the officers.

The suit includes defendants Sgt. Josh Evans, Officers Eric Rombough, Morteza Amiri, Scott Duggar, John Ramirez and Timothy Manly Williams, who left the department in 2021. The lawsuit also includes former Police Chief Tammany Brooks who left in October 2021, former Interim Police Chief and current Captain Tony Morefield, and current Chief Steve Ford, in spite of the fact he didn’t start as interim chief until late April 2022, at the end of the timeframe of the texts between December 2019 and April 2022. Ford was given his permanent position on October 23, 2022. Morefield served as interim chief from Oct. 10, 2021 through April 2022.

The plaintiffs include Antioch resident Shagoofa Khan, the 2017 Youth of the Year who was one of the lead protesters in the city in 2020, was arrested a few times including once for felony arson in January 2021 and at Brooks’ farewell party later that year, and was the subject of one of the vile texts; Adam Carpenter, Joshua Butler, Trent Allen, who is one of the suspects in the murder case that resulted in the release of the texts; plus, Diego Zavala, the son of Guadalupe Zavala, who was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police in 2021 after a seven-hour stand-off with police. (Their last name is listed as Savala in the lawsuit).

The suit describes what occurred between the named Antioch Police officers and the plaintiffs as a “conspiracy and/or conspiracies” and claims they were “the failure and/or refusal of Defendants Brooks, Morefield, Ford and Evans…to prevent or aid in preventing” them from occurring. The suit further claims the four department leaders “maintained customs, policies, and/or practices which encouraged, authorized, condoned, ratified, failed to prevent, and/or failed to aid in the prevention of wrongs conspired to be done by” the named officers.

The suit seeks multiple forms of damages including “past, present and/or future wage loss, income and support, medical expenses”; special damages, any and all permissible statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees. The lawsuit, Case #4:23-cv-01895-TSH, from the firm of Burris, Nissenbaum, Curry and Lacy also seeks department policy and practice changes and Court Monitoring. Burris previously represented the family of Angelo Quinto who died in 2021 in the hospital while not in police custody, three days after an interaction with Antioch Police who were called to their home to stop him from attacking them.

According to Antioch Police Officers’ Association attorney Mike Raines the officers don’t have to obtain their own legal counsel as they are entitled to representation by the City Attorney or a designated, outside law firm.

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