The district attorney report that absolved a sheriff’s deputy in the fatal shooting of Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins was largely based on inaccurate, coerced statements from his traumatized 9-year-old daughter, the family’s lawyer said Wednesday.
“The mind of a 9-year-old, surrounded by seasoned interrogating officers -- you can make [her] say anything you want,” said attorney Brian T. Dunn, who is representing the family in its civil lawsuit over the death.
In a Wednesday phone interview, Dunn challenged various aspects of the D.A.’s report, including suggestions that Loggins was behaving irrationally because of a religious fast from food and liquids.
Dunn said the fast ended weeks before the Feb. 7 shooting, and didn’t involve liquids, simply a modification in diet. He said the coroner’s report showed no evidence of dehydration.
“You really can’t make these kind of logical deductions with what they’ve got,” Dunn said. “They basically concluded out there that this man had to die based on no evidence. You can’t just shoot and kill someone just because they disobey you.”
Dunn said the D.A.'s decision not to prosecute was based on "a one-sided analysis" that relied on Deputy Darren Sandberg's version of events and ignored "the abysmal tactical decisions underlying the deputy's tragic errors."
According to the D.A., on the morning of Feb. 7, Loggins crashed his GMC Yukon through a gate on the San Clemente High School campus, drawing the attention of Sandberg, who sat in his cruiser filling out paperwork in the parking lot.
After Sandberg pulled up behind the vehicle with lights flashing, Loggins reportedly ignored the deputy, stalking off toward the football field and leaving his two young daughters in the back seat, according to the report. A few moments later, after backup units arrived on the scene, Loggins returned from the field. When he ignored Sandberg's commands not to get back in the car and turned the ignition, Sandberg fired three shots through the window.
According to the D.A.'s report, one of Loggins' daughters later told investigators: "I was afraid, and I think the officer was too, so that's why he shot him, so we wouldn't get hurt."
Dunn said that and other comments from the 9- and 14-year-old girls were taken out of context.
He said the girls were locked up in separate interview rooms for 13 hours while deputies relentlessly interrogated them, refusing to tell them their father was dead (he died almost immediately after the shooting).
“I talked to the girls, and what they said was that [investigators] kept asking them the same questions over and over again,” Dunn said. “They felt if they didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, they would never let them go."
Dunn said investigators also asked leading questions. “I'll give you an example: ‘Was your father angry?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Your father wasn’t acting normal?’ ‘No.’ ‘Would you say your father was berserk?’ ”
Tapes of the interviews have not been released, but Dunn said he would try to obtain them.
Dunn said it would have been easier on the family if the D.A.’s office had simply issued a brief statement saying it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute.
“To fill the record with all these statements from the kids just adds insult to injury,” Dunn said.
Earlier this year, the family sued the county for damages. A jury trial is scheduled for Sept. 10 in U.S. Central District Court in Santa Ana.
Dunn said it was too early to say whether the Loggins family would consider accepting a settlement from the county if one were offered.
“At this point, the family is more concerned that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Dunn said. “[In the D.A.’s report,] there’s no recognition of wrongdoing, and if there’s no recognition of wrongdoing, it’s just going to happen over and over again.”