Saratoga, CA -- Last year, the widow of an 86-year-old Navy veteran who was gunned down by armed intruders in his own home, filed a lawsuit against her husband's killers -- the Santa Clara County sheriff's department. Now, the person who murdered this innocent man will not be held accountable as the killing of Eugene Craig has been ruled justified by the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office.
Craig was gunned down by police as he attempted to shield his wife from armed intruders who'd just broken into his home. The armed intruders were cops.
On Sept. 12, 2016, according to Harue Craig's attorneys, prior to the shooting, deputies kicked down two doors before opening fire inside the Craigs' Saratoga home on Titus Avenue.
As KTVU reported at the time, attorneys said their client stated that both she and her late husband were “very scared” and did not know why their doors were being kicked down.
The elderly couple thought they were victims of a home invasion, so Eugene grabbed his .38 caliber revolver and bravely stood in front of his wife as they listened to the intruders come into their home.
When the intruders opened the bedroom door, they saw the elderly vet standing there with the revolver and one deputy opened fire. Although there were multiple deputies in the home, deputy Doug Ulrich was the only one who felt the need to begin shooting.
Eugene died on the scene.
According to police, they were at the home to conduct a welfare check. Craig’s granddaughter called police the night of the shooting because she hadn’t heard from her grandparents in a week, according to prosecutors.
The sheriff's office said that deputies clearly identified themselves, called the home phone, and tapped on windows repeatedly before entering.
In spite of their alleged efforts to identify themselves, the couple still didn't believe them. After all, they were both entirely innocent and cops coming into their home was a far-fetched idea. Any home invader could simply claim they're the police to easily gain entry into someone's home.
The tragic irony of this situation is that police claim they were there to protect the couple, noting that they had gotten word that someone inside the home was in distress. Sadly, this is what happens when militarized police are sent into an innocent couple's home to check on their well-being.
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Naturally, after they killed the innocent man -- while 'protecting' him -- police immediately attempted to justify their actions and as this ruling by the DA illustrates, it worked.
“The law allows Deputy (Douglas) Ulrich to fire his weapon in defense of others (and himself) until Craig no longer posed an imminent threat,” wrote Stacey Capps, a supervisor in the district attorney’s homicide unit. “In short, Deputy Ulrich genuinely believed that Craig presented an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to others or himself when he discharged his duty weapon.”
However, the only ones who created the threat of imminent danger were the police. Craig had harmed no one.
As NBC Bay Area reported at the time, the attorney for Craig's 90-year-old widow, Dennis Luca, a long-time retired San Jose Police officer, turned civil attorney, was originally hired by Craig’s 90-year-old widow after the shooting last fall.
“Simply put, they did not follow established policy and procedure that virtually all police departments, sheriff's office follow regarding the escalation of force,” said Luca.
“If you're there at someone's house to check on their welfare, why do you kick two doors down at night time when my client is 86 years old, his wife is 90, and they live alone at that house and they have for years?” asked Luca.
“They (deputies) didn't progress through the steps necessary, and that's why I say they created the deadly force event. Not Mr. Craig, who has a right to be in his house. He hadn't committed a crime,” said attorney Luca. “He has a right to be safe in his house like all of us do. The police just can't kick doors, come into the house and start shooting.”
Welfare checks, as they are known in the United States, are crap shoots that have the potential to explode into violence at any moment. The Free Thought Project has reported on numerous instances in which police have shown up to 'protect' someone who may be suicidal or in distress only to end up hurting or killing them.
Sadly, Craig is now one of these statistics and the people who did it to him will not be held responsible for taking an innocent man's life.
Nothing will bring back Harue Craig's beloved husband. However, her lawsuit will serve as yet another reminder of the effect of police violence on situations that require no force at all. When law enforcement's only tool is a hammer -- everything begins to look like a nail.
“It didn't have to happen. It shouldn't have happened,” said Luca. “And now I have a 90-year-old woman who is alone, who was married for many years to a war veteran, a pilot, and now she has no one. That's not a tragedy. That is horrific.”