Richard Rodriguez's family has dealt with a lot of grief and frustration since he was killed. They say the sheriff's department has blocked their attempts to find out why it happened, but they've been able to do something a lot of families can't.
A 911 call brought sheriff's deputies to the Rodriguez house just southwest of Fresno last October. When they left, one of the residents was dead. Six months later, nobody seems to know why sheriff's deputies shot and killed Richard Rodriguez. On the day of the shooting, sheriff's investigators said Rodriguez was armed with a rifle. And Sheriff Margaret Mims talked about previous problems at the house.
"The history is, I've heard several deputies say they have responded to this call in years past but I don't know if there is any incidence of guns involved," she said.
But Richard Rodriguez had no criminal record and deputies didn't find a weapon, although they never publicly announced that. Now, his family is pushing the sheriff's department for answers. And they have the financial might to push hard.
Brother Mark Rodriguez is an artist whose work shows all over the world and who had his own exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum just a month before his brother's death. He's hired a legal team and a private investigator to help fill in the blanks for his family, including his 88-year-old father who now battles depression. "I promised them that I would help them find closure," he said.
Rodriguez said he's been stonewalled by the county as he tries to get information, including the 911 calls that brought deputies to the house in the first place. No one from the county would comment to Action News either. And ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says an information lockdown is common in these types of cases. "They're going to do whatever they can to protect themselves," he said. "They're not going to want to spend any more taxpayer money than they have to, so yeah, they're going to stonewall."
But Rodriguez says he won't give up and although he filed a $25 million claim, he says it's not about the money. "My brother's case to me has become much more than my family's issue," he said. "I really believe I should be the voice for Fresno County. This can't happen to another family."
The county has six months to respond to the claim, but they're expected to reject it. At that point, the Rodriguez family will file a wrongful death lawsuit.