Settlement Reached in Suit against CSU San Bernardino for Alleged Wrongful Death

A $2.5 million settlement was reached in a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of California State University, in connection with the death of the plaintiffs’ son, Bartholomew Williams, during a confrontation with CSU San Bernardino police officers.

Bart Williams was a 38-year old graduate student who suffered from bipolar disorder and, on December 8, 2012, Williams was experiencing confusion and distress. After a disturbance call, three officers went to Williams’s dorm room. Williams initially agreed to speak with a doctor about his issues; however, a struggle ensued when the officers attempted to transport him to a hospital for psychological evaluation. His parents filed a lawsuit against the officers and the Board of Trustees, including claims of unreasonable use of deadly force, civil rights violations, disability discrimination, wrongful death, and negligence.

Central to the case was the contention that CSUSB University Police Department officers received inadequate training on how to interact with mentally ill students in distress. As such, in addition to the settlement funds, the campus will also revise its crisis intervention policies and require that its police officers complete a minimum of 32 hours of Crisis Intervention Training by December 31, 2015.

Lead attorney for the Plaintiffs, V. James DeSimone of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP stated: “This was a tragic instance where a student needed psychological help. It is our contention that instead of using crisis intervention tactics, the officers quickly resorted to the use of force escalating to the use of deadly force. We are hopeful that this settlement will bring some sense of closure to the family.”