T■ By Mary Ann Morris / Editor
he investigation of Anthony Norman’s tragic death in 2012 was closed in 2013. Three years later, it has been reopened, said Murrieta Police Department Capt. Dennis Vrooman, support division.
“We received a letter from the family on Oct. 10, 2016,” said Vrooman. “After reading the letter, we reopened it [the investigation] to look into some questions.”
Vrooman said the Norman family had concerns about what they believe are inconsistencies within the investigation.
“Based upon inconsistencies with what the family says happened, we have an obligation to listen to their concerns and compare them with the original investigation,” said Vrooman.
Vrooman said the investigation was reopened about seven days after receipt of the family’s letter in October and it should be concluded by mid-February.
Det. Jeffrey Ullrich, the original investigator in the Anthony Norman case, committed suicide in August 2016 after the FBI served a search warrant and seized evidence from his Murrieta home. Vrooman said unequivocally that Ullrich’s suicide is not correlated in any way with the Norman investigation or its reopening.
Anthony Norman, a mentally-disabled 21-year-old man, was killed shortly after midnight in Murrieta on Dec. 25, 2012. A wrongful death civil lawsuit was filed by his family members in 2015, which names Hemet Deputy Police Chief Charles “Rob” Webb as one of the defendants.
The Hemet City Council unanimously agreed to fund his defense at the behest of Hemet City Attorney Eric Vail, who cited a California government code that requires cities to provide a legal defense when an off-duty officer acts within the course and scope of the officer’s duties. The city has paid at least $357,000 of taxpayer money to Vail’s parent firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP defending this lawsuit, even though the city of Hemet was never named in the lawsuit and Webb allegedly had representation through his homeowner’s insurance company. “It may be interesting to note that the Court rejected Webb’s claim he was acting within course and scope of his employment twice; once when his Motion for Judgment on the Pleading was denied because the Complaint did not show on its face that Webb was acting in course and scope of his employment, and once, most recently, when his Motion for Summary Judgment was denied because the undisputed facts failed to establish as a matter of law that Webb was acting in course and scope,” said John Messina, partner with Messina & Hankin LLP, who is representing the Norman family in the civil suit. “Contrary to his previous sworn testimony, Webb claimed in a declaration in support of the Summary Judgment Motion that his conduct was consistent with his role as a Hemet police officer when he held Anthony Norman down on the street.”
Despite those claims and rejected court motions, Vail still asserts the city is responsible. The trial is scheduled to begin in July.
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