Fresno, CA – The family of a Fresno man is challenging the narrative of the Kings County Sheriff’s Office in the killing of 76-year-old Albert Hanson, Jr. Officers say that Hanson initiated a “standoff” while sitting in his car and fired a round from his rifle, prompting the SWAT team to open fire on his vehicle. That was the story reported in local media.
However, the family says that their father was most likely suffering a diabetic episode and had pulled over to the side of the road, where he was in an incapacitated state and could not follow orders from the cops.
Stacey Berbereia, Daniel Hanson and Kimberly Niz filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kings County and three officers, asserting that Hanson never fired a shot and the police resorted to deadly force with no justification.
Hanson had left on the morning of April 26, 2015 to go squirrel hunting with rifles in his vehicle. The sheriff’s office reported that a farm worker called their department, saying that Hanson was parked on the side of the road with two rifles in his car and was making obscure comments.
A sheriff’s deputy who arrived at the scene reported that he could see in the driver’s seat and nothing else. A California Highway Patrol helicopter went to the scene, and personnel reported to the officers that Hanson appeared to be sleeping.
The family states in the complaint that Hanson “reasonably appeared to be someone who was either ill or emotionally distressed.” The deputy ordered Hanson to exit the vehicle, but Hanson remained with his hands on the steering wheel, so the deputy called for backup.
The situation quickly escalated when the SWAT team arrived, even though Hanson presented “no more of a threat then than he had previously.”
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“Hanson remained largely unresponsive in his vehicle, never attempted to exit the vehicle, and was never observed wielding a firearm in a manner indicating he was an imminent threat, according to his family.
"Despite the plethora of tactical options and strategic advantages possessed by law enforcement personnel on scene, deadly force was exercised as the first and only considered option, and in the absence of apparent justification," the family says.”
The sheriff’s office claimed that Hanson was holding the rifle and fired a round in an unknown direction, but the complaint states that Hanson never brandished a weapon. The SWAT team fired 47 shots at the vehicle, with 11 of them striking Hanson, killing him.
Why would a man going squirrel hunting point a rifle while sitting in his car, surrounded by an entire SWAT team? Far too often we hear unlikely excuses given by cops when they kill people with no justification.
It is more plausible that the man could not function properly while in a diabetic episode, and the SWAT team, geared up and ready to kill, did not attempt to use other options before carrying out the execution.
As the family’s lawsuit plays out in court, perhaps other officers at the scene will come forward to say that no shot was ever fired by Hanson. We may find that the Highway Patrol helicopter personnel never witnessed Hanson brandishing the weapon.
According to his family, Albert was a kind, loving, and witty man who loved his children, grandchildren, family, and friends. He was generous with his time to help anyone in need. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and spending time with his family. He attended the Visalia Christian Reformed Church where he was involved in the Men's Bible Study Group. He also assisted at the Lyons Club in Dinuba.
Truly a threat to national security.