Attorney for family of suspect killed by KCSO last year accuses department of violating man’s civil rights

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An attorney representing the family of a man killed by Sheriff’s deputies last year accuses KCSO of violating the suspect’s rights following the release of body camera video showing the moment Graciano Ceballos was shot while running from deputies.

In April 2020, 38-year-old Ceballos had been accused of shooting vehicles on May Street in Oildale, and then firing at deputies who arrived to investigate. In a video presentation, KCSO said Ceballos also tried to back into deputies and ram their patrol cars as well, before being forced to stop near California Avenue and Easton Drive. At one point in the video a deputy, identified as Sergeant Adrian Olmos, fires a shot that misses when Ceballos leans out of the vehicle without showing his hands after being ordered. When Ceballos runs from the SUV later and after several more orders, he is shot to death.

The Ceballos family lawsuit, filed earlier this year in federal court by the law firm Guizar, Henderson & Carrazco, disputes KCSO’s assertions, saying Graciano had a gun, but fired it into the air during a dispute, and not at any people. The complaint reads: “[Ceballos] drove away from the scene when Sheriff deputies…initiated a traffic stop. The Decedent was observed by said defendant to toss a firearm out the window of the car and a pursuit started.”

However, multiple shots can be heard during the pursuit at one moment of the KCSO video review. A gun was recovered, but KCSO said it would not release details of where it was found. The department doesn’t usually comment on litigation.

Ceballos’ brother, Edward, was also arrested, with KCSO’s video accusing the man of refusing to surrender or leave the vehicle, delaying immediate medical aid for his brother and sparking a SWAT standoff. An attorney for the family, Christian Contreras, said Edward Ceballos is paraplegic, something he points out was not said in the video. In an email, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said Ceballos “had extremely limited use of arms/legs.” Ceballos pleaded no contest to resisting arrest but other charges, including attempted murder, were dropped. Ceballos was sentenced 96 days in jail, serving 48, and placed on probation for 3 years.

“The body worn video release by Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KSCO) on May 6, 2021, more than a year after the shooting of Graciano Ceballos, clearly shows deputies shooting and killing Graciano Ceballos as he was running away,” Contreras wrote in a statement. “Kern County deputies shot Graciano in the back, murdering him. Not only was the shooting inhumane, it was illegal, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and in violation of standard law enforcement principles. Adding insult to injury, KCSO alleges that Edward Ceballos did not exit the vehicle after shooting, but KCSO fails to mention that Edward Ceballos is paraplegic and it was physically impossible [for] Edward Ceballos to exit the vehicle on his own accord. Thereafter, KCSO jailed Edward Ceballos for several weeks in retaliation on trumped up charges including attempted murder and resisting arrest. Again, it is physically impossible for Edward Ceballos to attempt to murder anyone, let alone resist arrest. We will continue to litigate this case in federal court accordingly.”

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