Ron Ely, who played Tarzan in the 1960s and '70s, has filed a lawsuit against Santa Barbara County, the Sheriff's Office and four named deputies, alleging wrongful death on the part of deputies who shot his son to death last year while responding to a 911 call regarding an attack on Ely's wife. Besides law enforcement's role in his son's death, Ely's suit alleges that officers on the scene prevented his dying wife from getting what could have been life-saving medical care. The suit alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and a conspiracy to violate civil rights in connection with the "unjustified use of deadly force and denial of medical care, resulting in the deaths of Cameron Ely and Valerie Lundeen Ely."
At the time, law enforcement claimed that Cameron Ely had stabbed his mother to death, and that he was killed after threatening deputies. Law enforcement have been reluctant to release details of the case, though, and as of two months ago, the criminal investigation into the circumstance surrounding the tragedy was handed over to the district attorney's office. It remains under investigation.
From those initial statements by law enforcement, it would seem like a fairly simple case, but that does not appear to be the situation. The lawsuit states that footage obtained from dashboard cameras shows that Cameron Ely approached the police with his hands up and stab wounds of his own, and that in less than 30 seconds they shot him 22 times.
Apparently the 911 call came from Cameron Ely himself, who was reporting that his mother was attacking his father. This was misconstrued as his father attacking his mother by the 911 dispatchers, and the lawsuit claims tha tpolice did not take the time to clarify the details of the call. They say that even after medical personnel arrived on the scene, they were prevented from entering the house to care for Valerie Lundeen Ely, and that the police officers actively obstructed attempts to provide care to Cameron Ely after they shot him.
"Cameron was left to bleed out in the driveway for over 13 minutes before medics were permitted to assess him," the lawsuit says.
The suit also has 10 unnamed defendants from the sheriff's department, who Ely and his children say failed to properly investigate the matter or discipline officers following the deaths. One of the ten unnamed officials has numerous past use-of-force shootings on his record.