The Ventura County Sheriff's Department was sued Friday over the fatal shooting of an armed, distraught Camarillo woman as she sat in her car at Point Mugu State Park.
Nancy Pearlman, 56, died March 20 after being shot by deputies who had been trying to coax her out of the vehicle, authorities said at the time.
Filed in U.S. District Court by the woman's widower, Gerald Pearlman, the suit accuses unnamed deputies of using excessive force. It also contends the department failed to train its officers to deal safely and effectively with people "who are perhaps emotionally upset but not otherwise engaged in criminal activity."
Alan Wisotsky, an Oxnard attorney representing the Sheriff's Department, said the deputies did not act recklessly in the shooting that caused the death of "a very, very troubled lady."
"What we'll see here quite clearly is another situation where she was, for whatever reason, unwilling to take her own life and forced a police officer to do it," he said.
Before Nancy Pearlman drove to the scenic spot overlooking the ocean, the couple discussed ending their marriage, according to the lawsuit. Gerald Pearlman called officers when he returned home several hours after the couple's talk and found his wife gone and a gun case empty.
At about 7 p.m., deputies found her in a parking lot off Pacific Coast Highway at Point Mugu State Park.
According to the suit, she was shot just minutes later, though over the next three hours deputies at the Pearlman home were telling Gerald Pearlman that negotiations with his wife were ongoing.
As it does with all police shootings, the Ventura County district attorney's office investigated the incident.
No report, however, has been released. In the meantime, Pearlman and his attorney have been kept from viewing any evidence.
"We don't understand why it's taking so long," said Peter M. Williamson, a Los Angeles attorney representing Pearlman.
"We've been unable to look at the vehicle she was shot in.... Until we get the police reports, we won't know what happened."
Williamson said he had understood from a coroner involved with the case that the woman was shot in the left temple through her closed driver's-side window and that her gun was found in a door pocket on her left side.
But Wisotsky, the department's attorney, disputed that contention. He said he was at the scene and saw the gun beside the woman on the car's front seat.
While sympathizing with the family, Wisotsky said the suit was "premature from a legal standpoint," saying the law allows a filing as long as two years after an incident.