Saturday, 15 June 2024

Civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit settled over December 2005 shootings

CLEARLAKE – A civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court by the families of two young men shot during an alleged break-in of a south county home has been settled.

Sherrill and Howard Foster and Sheila Burton's lawsuit against Shannon Edmonds and his ex-girlfriend, Lori Tyler, concluded following a Dec. 12 settlement conference facilitated by a federal court judge, according to Russell Robinson, the attorney for the Fosters and Burton.

The families sued over the deaths of their sons, Rashad Williams and Christian Foster, both 22, who were shot to death as they fled from Edmonds' and Tyler's Clearlake Park home in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005.

Robinson said the settlement is governed by a confidentiality agreement, so the monetary amount cannot be disclosed.

The San Francisco law firm Cesari, Werner and Moriarty represented Tyler. Dennis Moriarty, one of the lawyers representing Tyler, did not return calls seeking comment on the case.

In a Sept. 25, 2008, letter to federal Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Tyler's attorneys noted that she was unemployed and on disability. “Like defendant Edmonds, Ms. Tyler has no funds to contribute towards a settlement ...”

Allied Insurance, which court records noted was the liability insurance carrier at the time for Edmonds and Tyler, paid the settlement.

“We have settled with our policy holder and as far as we are concerned the matter is closed,” said Liz Christopher, a media spokesperson for Allied and its parent company, Nationwide Insurance.

Christopher added that the company does not discuss the details of private policies.

In 2007 the Foster and Burton families filed the lawsuit against Edmonds and Tyler in federal court, alleging that the shootings were racially motivated and followed a fight, as Lake County News has reported.

Edmonds allegedly shot Christian Foster and Rashad Williams as they ran from his home. Their families have denied they were there to take part in a break-in, which is what the District Attorney's Office alleged had led to the shootings.

The District Attorney's Office did not file charges against Edmonds, who is white, for shooting the two young black men, saying they did not believe they could successfully prosecute him based on the available evidence.

Officials did prosecute the young mens' friend, Renato Hughes, for their shootings under the provocative act law, which allows a person to be prosecuted for any deaths that occur during a violent crime in which they are alleged to have taken part.

The case led to accusations of racism and allegations that Hughes could not get a fair trial in Lake County. His trial was moved to Martinez and he was acquitted this past summer of the two mens' deaths, but found guilty of burglary and assault with a firearm, and sentenced to eight years in prison. He is appealing the conviction.

The families' suit alleged that Rashad Williams' and Christian Foster's civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit was amended after its original filing to add the city of Clearlake, the county of Lake and 100 unnamed individuals – believed to have been Clearlake Police or Lake County Sheriff's employees at the time – as defendants.

The Foster and Burton families alleged that Edmonds was a known drug dealer. They added the local governments to the suit for allowing Edmonds and Tyler “unlawfully to sell recreational drugs, to possess firearms, to use minors in unlawful sale of recreational drugs, and for failing to protect persons such as Christian and Rashad.”

In May, federal Judge William Alsup dismissed the case against the county and city, as Lake County News has reported.

The case was set to move to trial in September of 2009. However, with the federal claims against the jurisdictions dismissed, Robinson said the federal court was losing its jurisdiction over the case.

Zimmerman, a magistrate judge, kept the case in federal court, however, and asked the two sides – including Allied Insurance – to sit down to the Dec. 12 settlement conference, Robinson said.

Robinson said the parties reached an agreement by day's end.

“It was not an easy case to settle,” he said, crediting Zimmerman for bringing the two sides together.

The families willingly settled the case, but it isn't a truly satisfying conclusion, he said.

“You can't bring their kids back,” said Robinson.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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