Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputy Gregory Dean was found not guilty of the homicide of Khamhane Philapandeth by a Shasta County jury on Thursday, October 13, 2005. That same jury convicted Dean of assault under color of authority.
The Shasta County Grand Jury indicted Dean on charges of Penal Code § 192(b) (involuntary manslaughter) and Penal Code § 149 (assault under color of authority) rising from Dean’s arrest of Philapandeth on May 18, 2004. This incident started when Dean tried to place Philapandeth under arrest. Philapandeth resisted and a lengthy and intense struggle erupted to gain control of Philapandeth. At the conclusion of the struggle Philapandeth appeared to lose consciousness and eventually died. Shasta County’s forensic pathologist, Dr. Susan Comfort, conducted an autopsy and concluded that Philapandeth died of restraint asphyxia, specifically because Dean placed his full body weight on Philapandeth’s back for an extended period of time, thereby causing Philapandeth’s death. If convicted of the homicide charge, Dean faced almost five years in state prison.
The entire use of force incident occurred in the Win River Casino Security Office and was recorded on the security office’s surveillance video camera. Prior to Dean’s arrival, Philapandeth had been detained in the security office for a car burglary. When Dean arrived, Philapandeth was uncooperative and defiant. As Dean tried to handcuff him, Philapandeth jerked away, forcing Dean to take Philapandeth to the floor. At that time, three security guards jumped in to assist Dean. A lengthy struggle ensued on the floor. Dean sprayed Philapandeth with O/C spray but he continued to fight. Eventually, Dean and the security guards successfully handcuffed Philapandeth. However, Philapandeth continued to struggle and attempted to get up. Dean struck Philapandeth with his O/C spray canister several times on Philapandeth’s shoulder. Eventually, Philapandeth struggling diminished as backup deputies arrived. Approximately one minute after backup deputies arrived, Philapandeth appeared to lose consciousness. The deputies and two security guards, who were EMTs, immediately began to try to revive Philapandeth. Paramedics were called and the efforts to revive Philapandeth continued. Unfortunately, the paramedics, EMTs, and deputies were not able to revive Philapandeth and he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
This case presented two complicated issues for the defense. First, the coroner concluded Philapandeth died of restraint asphyxia (also known as positional asphyxia). The defense consulted extensively with Dr. Tom Neuman from the UC San Diego Medical Center, who has conducted extensive studies on the human body’s reaction to various police restraint activities, including the hogtie position, O/C spray, and weight up to 225 pounds on a subject’s back. Through his studies, Neuman has concluded that police restraint procedures, including extensive weight on a suspect’s back, do not lower the suspect’s blood oxygen levels and therefore do not result in injury, let alone death. Neuman has concluded that restraint or positional asphyxiation is a myth in the police use of force context. Neuman testified extensively at trial, and jurors later reported that Neuman’s studies and testimony helped lead them through their acquittal of Dean on the manslaughter charges. Neuman concluded that Philapandeth probably died of a cardiac arrhythmia shortly after the backup deputies arrived at the scene.
The other complicated issue in this case was the reconstruction of the event through the videotape. The videotape was of extremely poor quality, which made it difficult to tell exactly what each of the parties was doing during the use of force incident. Dean’s lawyers consulted extensively with forensic video analyst and photogrammetry expert Michael Schott. Through his measurements of the scene of the incident and Dean, Schott was able to determine that Dean never was positioned in such a way that his full body weight was on Philapandeth. Schott’s video enhancement work was also able to greatly discredit the testimony of the security guards, who testified on behalf of the prosecution. The defense was able to show through the enhanced videotape that many parts of the security guards’ testimony was inaccurate, showing that they misperceive much of what Dean was doing to get Philapandeth under control.
Jurors later reported to the defense team that they were able to reach a decision of not guilty on the homicide charges quickly. However, the jury convicted Dean of the assault charge for striking Philapandeth with the O/C spray canister. One juror reported that even though the evidence was undisputed that the blows to Philapandeth were of no medical consequence the jury felt that the blows were too numerous and therefore excessive.
Gregory Dean was represented at trial by myself and other lawyers of Goyette & Associates, Inc. I am the managing partner of Goyette & Associates, Inc., who specializes in the representation of public safety employees and their associations in numerous types of legal matters.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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I didn't end up needing his service but he was awesome in what conversations we had before the matter was resolved. Very valuable - LDF!
- Dennis W. Ostini Lake County DSA
[My Representative] was fantastic, knowledgeable, professional and easy to talk and work with. Even though the allegations lodged have not been resolved, [My Representative] continued to communicate with me, to offer his assistance.
- Andrew Hill Statewide University PA
I have used this law firm for union related business for the last several years. It was a no brainer to call them for LDF.
- Joseph A. Henderson Merced POA
The firm I used was very valuable to my career and kept me updated as to status of the case. Thank you!
- Robert Glock Oakland POA
I am always satisfied with LDF and all their representatives.
- Eric White Emeryville POA
Very satisfied with the LDF services provided. Thank you.
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Carlos Gonzalez Oakland POA
Very well informed group.
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- Craig Caches Fremont POA
I have only used LDF once for myself, which with the circumstance was great. I work with LDF in my assignment ( OIS investigator ) and after approximately 4-5 OIS's, I have great experiences with LDF.
- Paul Barrolaza Twin Cities POA
- Micheal Chad Heiser Santa Rosa POA
LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
- Stephen Woodward Palm Springs POA
Great job by my LDF lawyer. I have had to use them several times over my 20 year career and their service is invaluable.
- William Pryor Statewide University PA
Very helpful program. Helped keep department personnel focused on the issue regardless of their personal issues.
- Phillip Flores Oxnard POA
My attorney was excellent. I would use her again.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- Robert Hartman Contra Costa Co DSA
Quick response, experienced and knowledgeable attorney which assisted in every step. [My representative] kept me apprised through the process. Thank you.
- Albert Contreas Imperial Co. DSA
Thank you for your services.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Ricky L. Hemphill Los Angeles School PA
[My representative] was an excellent lawyer.
- Patrick Beggs Fresno Co DSA
Good service. Thank you.
- David Baker Placerville POA
My experience through dealing with this matter was horrific. Without the efforts of the LDF and more specifically [my representative], I would most certainly have fallen victim to a corrupt and unethical administration. The LDF has saved my career and brought me justice.
- Katherine Comesana Mountain View POA
Hope to never in a situation again, however, glad to know that LDF is there to help.
- Kenneth Nelson Plumas Co SA
Good job. Thank you! [My representative] does an outstanding job representing the employees and seems to be very intimidating to the [County Management]. We like it this way!
- Tia Dixione Inglewood POA
My representative was very helpful and informative.
- Jaime Kim Oakland POA
My rep did a good job. First we met and he explained that there might be culpability on my part but not nothing close to the allegations. I appreciated his honesty as we have all done things that can be taken out of context so it was important he told me to realize that.
- Kim Jasper Alhambra POA
Excellent service, prompt and courteous.
- Chris Moore Palo Alto POA
No Complaints. Great Resource.
- Keith Stiver Hayward POA
[My representative] brings a superlative reputation, a comforting and confidence building demeanor and a clear expertise to the table. In particular I appreciate her philosophy that she gives her total undivided attention to her clients during their appointments.
- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
- Dan McDow San Luis Obispo POA
[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- Gregory Carbett Ontario POA
The attorney assigned to my case was GREAT! It's sad, but it's impossible to be an officer in today's world without a defense fund like PORAC LDF. I am now retired and signed up for the retired officers CCW LDF. Thanks!
- Erick Gaunt Palos Verdes POA
- Nicholas Belliveau Sebastopol POA
High quality service, proficient, well informed. Overall, very happy with experience.
- Ron Ruddy Riverside POA
- Dennis Leach National City POA
[My Representative] is a knowledgeable attorney and I would highly recommend him to anyone needing representation.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Raymond Fisher Colorado State Patrol Assn
I have known for sometime that PORAC would provide the services I needed at the time I needed them. This is a professional competent organization prepared to handle the appropriate legal matters our officers face in today's environment.
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
Thank you for your help.
- Chris Lyon Tulare Co DSA
Very thorough group of sharp/smart government concerned [attorneys]. They understood what was happening and briefed me on everything. I was very impressed.
- Anthony Gregori Sonoma Co Jr College P O A
Excellent work and well worth it.