Lawsuit accuses Sheriff Mims of promoting deadly force

Article by By Pablo Lopez | Fresno Spotlight

Homeless and with nowhere to go, Kenneth Mullins curled up inside an empty building at a Fresno auto wrecking yard and fell asleep. What happened once he woke up is the subject of a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

Two Fresno County sheriff’s reserve deputies — Alex Riordan and Chris Curtice — are accused of killing Mullins, 32, in March 2020 by shooting him multiple times in the head, described in the court record as “kill shots” for the act of trespassing.

Mullins was unarmed. He died at the scene.

At trial, the evidence will shine a bright spotlight on Sheriff Margaret Mims’ reserve unit – unpaid volunteers who are armed, in uniform and can use lethal force under the color of law. The lawsuit contends these volunteers are improperly trained and accuses Mims of promoting a culture or belief that excessive force against civilians is permissible without fear of discipline or consequences.

Sheriff officials did not respond to a request for comment or to say whether Riordan and Curtice remain in the reserve unit. In court papers they deny the allegations. But a federal judge ruled in November the allegations appear to be true and has allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

Fresno Attorney Nicholas “Butch” Wagner and San Francisco Lawyer Mark Schallert filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mullins’ daughter. They seek damages for wrongful death, negligence, battery and violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The sheriff’s website says reserve deputies are certified by the California Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Some reserve deputies are preparing for a paid career in law enforcement; others just want to serve their community.

According to published reports, Riordan is project manager for a local dairy environmental consulting firm and on the board of directors for the nonprofit Central Valley Veterans. Curtice is a retired sheriff’s deputy and homicide detective best known for helping to solve the 1992 Easter slaying of the Ewell family in southeast Fresno. He ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2006. Curtice then endorsed Mims for sherriff. His wife is sheriff’s Lt. Kathy Curtice.


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