Mother Files Federal Wrongful Death Suit Over Deputy’s Shooting Of Barstow Man

The mother of Nathanael Harris Pickett filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Riverside Federal Court on May 31. Nathanael Pickett was the 29-year-old Barstow man fatally shot by a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy last year.
Named as defendants in the case are San Bernardino County, the sheriff’s department, sheriff’s deputy Kyle Hayden Woods, and an as yet-unidentified civilian reserve deputy.
Based on Woods’ statements and his police report, the sheriff’s office maintains the shooting was a justified use of deadly force in which the deceased tempted fate through his own behavior.
The incident began after Pickett, according to the department, was observed making an unconventional entrance onto the property where he was residing. When he was approached, he offered a false name to Woods and a reserve officer accompanying Woods on his patrol rounds that evening. Pickett remained uncooperative and then fled when the Woods attempted to place him in handcuffs, the department maintains. A scuffle ensued, during which, according to the sheriff’s department, Pickett repeatedly punched Woods in the head.
Woods and the citizen volunteer were on duty the evening of November 19, 2015 when they witnessed, at approximately 9:07 p.m. a man, subsequently identified as Pickett, jumping over a fence at the El Rancho Motel in Barstow. When the officers moved to question Pickett, he furnished the pair with a “false name and became uncooperative. As the deputy attempted to handcuff the suspect, he attempted to run and a fight between the two broke out. Pickett struck the deputy numerous times in the face and refused to comply with the repeated verbal commands to stop hitting him and move away. The deputy fired his weapon, striking the subject, at which time the assault ceased.”
Pickett was pronounced dead at the scene.
Woods, according to a sheriff’s department news release at the time, suffered multiple injuries, including broken bones. Furthermore, according to the sheriff’s department, Pickettt has a history of resisting arrest, such that he merited the use of deadly force against him.
Pickett was twice convicted, in 2006 and again in 2011, of “obstructing an executive officer.” In 2012, Pickett was sentenced to three years of conditional and revocable release stemming from the 2006 misdemeanor obstructing an executive officer arrest, court records show. He was simultaneously sentenced to three years of supervised probation following a no contest plea to two counts of felony obstructing an executive officer and a felony false impersonation charge stemming from a 2011 arrest.
Video footage captured by a security camera at the El Ranho Motel, where Pickett had been living, does not bear out, however, the department and Woods’ version of events. The video depicts Woods talking to Pickett, then Pickett running from the deputy, who pursues Pickett off camera. A few minutes later, Pickett reappears on video, running down the motel corridor and being chased by Woods. Picket trips and falls. Woods, seen on the video from behind, at that point appears to be pointing his gun at Pickett. Pickett scoots back, away from the approaching deputy, but does not appear to be hitting or in any way striking Woods. A single flash of gunfire briefly flickers and Pickett is then seen prone on the ground. At no point is Pickett seen striking Woods. Woods, however, can be seen punching Pickett repeatedly. At one point, the reserve deputy can be seen assisting Woods.
Pickett’s mother, Dominique Archibald, is the plaintiff in the case. She is represented by Victorville attorneys Jim Terrell and Sharon Brunner. Archibald, Terrell and Brunner acknowledge that Pickett suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness, most likely schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But Pickett’s condition in no way justified the treatment he received at the hands of Woods, according to the suit, which lists among its causes of action unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, deliberate indifference to Pickett’s medical needs, and violations of civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Moreover, the suit paints a picture of out-and-out sadistic brutality and criminal acts perpetrated by Woods. Woods acted “unlawfully, improperly and maliciously shot” Pickett, the suit states. After Pickett was shot, according to the suit, Woods reholstered his gun, and he and the reserve deputy punched and kicked Pickett as he lay on the doorstep of death. Woods merits being prosecuted by the district attorney’s office for murder, Terrall and Bruner maintain. The district attorney’s office, which routinely deems uses of force by law enforcement officers as legally justified within the circumstances police officers face and applicable law, has yet to make its determination in this case.

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