Father of Kayla Moore sues city for wrongful death

Michael Ball/File

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A lawsuit filed against the city of Berkeley last week alleges that city police officers played a role in the death of Kayla Moore, a transgender individual who died last year.

Filed by Kayla Moore’s father, Arthur Moore, last Wednesday, the federal civil lawsuit comes almost one year after the death of Moore, a 41-year-old Berkeley resident and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. The lawsuit also names eight individual officers as defendants.

On the night of Feb. 12, 2013, Berkeley police officers responded to a disturbance call in Moore’s apartment complex. The plaintiff alleges that, upon arriving on the scene, the Berkeley Police Department officers engaged in false arrest, used excessive force while restraining Moore and failed to provide adequate medical attention.

According to a BPD press release, Moore became “increasingly agitated and uncooperative” and resisted the officers, who proceeded to restrain her. Upon noticing that she wasn’t breathing, officers performed CPR, and Berkeley Fire Department transported her to Alta Bates Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead early the next morning.

About three months later, on May 3, the Alameda County coroner released a report that found Moore died from a drug overdose. According to Maria Moore, Kayla Moore’s sister, the family sought legal counsel after reading the police report, which was released the same day.

“If somebody … puts a knee on your back and compresses your chest and doesn’t allow you to breathe, you’re going to die,” said Adante Pointer, an Oakland attorney representing Arthur Moore. “That happens whether you’re intoxicated or not.”

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko declined to comment on the case. As of Tuesday, the city had not been served with the lawsuit, and city attorneys had not yet reviewed it, he said.

In previous incidents, Moore was assisted by a civilian mental health response team, but on the night of her death, BPD officers responded. Because of this, Maria Moore said that she would like the city to implement an around-the-clock mobile crisis team to avoid having police officers act as counselors. The team currently operates from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

BPD has at least one officer trained to assist individuals with mental illness or respond to psychiatric crises on every patrol team, according to BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.

In October, Berkeley Copwatch, an independent community group that monitors BPD actions, released a report alleging officers involved made decisions that “led to Moore’s untimely death.”

The Police Review Commission, a nine-member civilian board that monitors police conduct and policy, completed an investigation in January, but the findings cannot be disclosed to the public by law. It will soon create a board of inquiry that will decide whether allegations made by Police Review Commission staff against officers are sustained, not sustained or unfounded.

The federal court will next set a trial date, which could be up to two years in the future, according to Pointer.

Contact Sahil Chinoy at [email protected].