From the March 2003 Idaho Observer:
U.S. District Court to hear Federman v. Kern County, CA
Family suing county for 1998 death of innocent man in his own home
Kern County, California, was the scene of the untimely death of Lyle Federman in 1998. Kern County is currently the scene of a major socio/political meltdown. The Lords of Bakersfield, are a trans-generational cabal of sexually-deviant public officials and pillars of Kern County society who have been raping, murdering and generally abusing the locals for decades. The surviving Federmans hope that the murder of Lyle Federman will not have been in vain and that his case will help expose the abusive actions of these public servants.
By The Idaho Observer
TEHACHAPI, Calif. -- The family of Lyle Federman is one step closer to vindicating what they believe is the wrongful death of Lyle Federman of Sand Canyon. A hearing in the case of Chedva Federman, etc., et. al. vs. County of Kern was originally filed in May, 2000. The case is scheduled to be heard in Eastern California's U.S. District Court this year.
Federman was shot at least 19 times and killed April 21, 1998, by Kern County Sheriff's Department (KCSD) deputies responding to a 911 call. The call came from neighbor Rosie Trammel who was concerned about the nonviolent, 42-year-old Federman who was apparently starting small brush clearance fires on his ranch property. Police records indicate that Trammel had called KCSD out to investigate complaints several times in the past -- all of which had turned out to be frivolous.
KCSD Sergeant Adam arrived at the remote Federman home with a fire truck.
According to incident reports, the original plan was to have one of the firemen speak to Federman, who had no criminal history. If his reasons for starting the small brush clearance fires were satisfactory, the incident would be over. Indeed, incident reports confirm that no fires were burning when authorities arrived, only a few smoldering stumps remained.
For unknown reasons, Adam changed the plan and knocked on Federman's door himself and at the same time pulled out his gun. Federman, who was apparently home alone, allegedly responded with some expletives and questioned Adam by saying, If all you want to do is talk, then why did you take your gun out?
Then he accused Adam of being out of line and demanded he be left alone on his property. Federman's stress heightened, and he demanded to speak to Adam's superior. Based on Federman's response and demeanor; Adam determined Federman had lost touch with reality. Though he never discussed it with Federman, and was not himself qualified to make such a diagnosis, Adam decided that Federman should be taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation. Adam then called for a SWAT team.
The SWAT team arrived in an armored personnel carrier and set up a command post within sight of Federman's home. SWAT commanders positioned snipers armed with high-powered rifles around Federman's remote ranch house. They also drove what they call a tank (armored personnel carrier) right up to Federman's front door, presumably to intimidate him.
By now Federman was no longer communicating with authorities. Phone calls into the house were picked up by Federman's answering machine. During this time, however, Federman had been talking to a 911 dispatcher named Sylvia.
A transcript of those conversations reveals that Federman was extremely distraught. The transcripts also reveal that Federman was trying to make contact with someone in authority who could give him an explanation as to why KCSD was besieging his home. Unable to reach Federman by phone, SWAT Commander Fivecoat ordered that a throw phone be tossed through the home's back bedroom window. Federman answered the phone calls and talked about a variety of issues with KCSD Deputy Fennell, including the possibility that the tank and a patrol car be moved away from the house. Federman also wanted to know why they had disconnected his home phone line.
Deputy Fennel never told Federman that his state of mind was a matter of concern and that he would be removed from his home by force if he did not surrender. Federman was never given an explanation as to why KCSD had turned a routine incident into a paramilitary operation. Curiously, only Deputy Fennel's side of the phone conversations was taped.
The plan was for Deputy Fennel, who seemed to have gained a degree of Federman's trust, to get back on the phone and coax Federman toward the broken window where a SWAT deputy would ambush him with a stream of pepper spray. Then a squad of fully armored SWAT personnel would break down his front door, charge through the house with their fully automatic assault rifles and take a theoretically incapacitated Federman into custody.
However, the plan did not work. What happened next is not clear due to conflicting reports.
According to some of the SWAT members, the SWAT squad rushed too quickly and Federman, who up to this point had not brandished a firearm nor had he threatened to use one, picked up his hunting rifle and fired two rounds, hitting no one. However, the Federman family with the help of a hired investigator has produced ample amounts of evidence, including forensic data, which completely disproves claims that Federman fired any shots.
The SWAT squad withdrew and regrouped. The next impromptu plan involved shooting tear gas projectiles into the bedroom with the broken window and at the same time throwing a flash-bang grenade into the living room through the open door. As expected, Federman left the bedroom to avoid the tear gas and attempted to exit his home through the living room, which had filled with a thick cloud of smoke from the flash-bang grenade.
According to deputy testimony, Federman approached the front door with his hands in the air, holding the rifle by its stock -- with his hands nowhere near the trigger. He also had a handgun that was not being held in a threatening manner, according to police. Facing several deputies who were pointing their fully automatic, 9 mm military-style rifles and, other ordnance at him, according to Federman lawyer John Burton. Federman, who would have been extremely distraught by this time, reportedly complied with SWAT orders to drop both firearms. Deputies have testified that Federman was not posing a lethal threat when police opened fire.
Deputy Dahl, a member of the SWAT team, fired non-lethal wooden dowel bullets at Federman. Dahl's non-lethal rounds were followed by sympathetic live ammunition rounds from the other deputies.
When the shooting frenzy had stopped, deputies Kirkland, Studer and Lopetguy had put 19 bullet holes into Federman. Ballistic reports show that Federman was falling backwards when the fatal rounds struck him, probably because he had been propelled backwards by the initial impact of the wooden bullets.
Moments before the unarmed man was gunned down inside his home, at least one deputy recalls hearing Federman cooperatively ask police if they wanted his knife, too.
After the shooting, the SWAT team handcuffed the lifeless Federman behind his back and dragged him for approximately 20 feet, face down, torso down, through dirt and debris. Paramedics then examined Federman and determined he was dead.
KCSD has responded to other incidents involving barricaded persons. In other cases, negotiations have lasted up to 24 hours. The standard policy for police all across the country is to wait a person out. Established police procedures do not prescribe sending heavily-armed, military-clad swat teams in to murder traumatized citizens with no criminal history.
A tactical plan, rather than negotiations intended to bring the incident to a peaceful conclusion, was implemented. When that plan failed and the situation deteriorated, no further reasonable attempts were made to negotiate with Federman. Instead, another tactical plan was put into motion. Though negotiating could have resolved the situation safely without anyone being hurt, the police made the decision to open fire. Instead of being taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation, Federman was dead within two hours of the arrival of Fivecoat's SWAT team.
Bait-and switch body parts
Since the day of the incident, the Federman family has been diligently conducting an investigation into Federman's wrongful death. Their inquiries have revealed that KCSD officials, in an apparent attempt to justify their actions, have falsified documents and photographs.
The Federman family explained how they demanded Federman's body parts be returned to them after the autopsy had been completed. After the death of my husband, Mr. James H. Thebeau, one of the representing attorneys for Kern County, agreed to release the remains of my husband that were taken during an autopsy performed at the Kern County Coroner's Division on the condition that any further tests being performed on the bodily remains of Lyle should be done solely in one of their laboratories, Chedva Federman explained.
Suspicious of Mr. Thebeau's condition, the Federmans took those specimens to an independent lab for mitochondria DNA testing. We were aghast to find out the organs given to us were determined not to be Lyle's, Mrs. Federman said.
The surviving Federman family believes this macabre bait-and-switch with Federman's body parts was just one more attempt by Kern County to cover up the murderous results of that day.
Phony drug test
Federman's teenage son Eli, who lived with his father most of the time, described how Kern County attempted to file a false blood analysis that showed Federman was positive for amphetamines. When we subpoenaed the toxicology report, the coroner's office sent us the [unsigned] fabricated report claiming positive for amphetamines, not knowing we already had the [signed] authentic report that said negative under all drugs, Eli said.
A media clip photo taken right after the incident and before investigators arrived on the scene reveals there were no guns in a certain frame of the living room. However, when we subpoenaed photos of the scene, the sheriff's department sent us a photo depicting two firearms in the same part of the living room. It is clear that those guns were deliberately placed there sometime between the moment the media left and the moment investigators took the photo we received in discovery, Eli said.
Some truth, more lies
While the testimony of certain deputies are consistent with the evidence and common sense, other testimony that tries to rationalize Federman's death is inconsistent with the evidence and defies common sense.
In 1996 Federman, a former theologian had elected to move to a rustic remote Mojave Desert ranch. He developed computer software and was well regarded in the computer field. Federman and his son Eli lived what Eli describes as somewhat of a rustic lifestyle. He and his father hunted, fished and camped. Federman home schooled his son and taught him to be independent and self-sufficient. Eli recalls, Despite the fact that we were fully obeying the law and living as good citizens they, for some reason, saw my father as a potential hazard and used that as a ticket for storming our home like a bunch of SS Gestapo storm troopers. Its hard to imagine that in our day and age, the ones entrusted to uphold the law, often times fail to abide by it.
Their actions were akin to the brazen conduct of a totalitarian regime, commented Attorney Burton, whose home office is in Pasadena, California.
Kern County has experienced other controversies regarding its treatment of citizens. Some of that corruption has been detailed in Edward Humes's book, Mean Justice.
Other, more recent details of official corruption in Kern County are memorialized in a series of articles under the heading, The Lords of Bakersfield, which began appearing in the Bakersfield Californian, January, 2003. The articles, which describe decades of corruption, police and judicial abuse, drugs, prostitution, pedophilia and homosexuality among those in positions of power in Kern County, can be found online at http://ww2.bakersfield.com/2003/lords/
It's been almost five years since Federman's untimely death, but for his wife Chedva and sons Eli, Binyamin, and Asher, he still lives on. Eli was 13 when his father was killed by police, he is now 18 and attending criminal justice classes at a local college and plans to attend law school and eventually represent those who experience police brutality and official misconduct.
Nineteen-year-old Beny has written and composed songs dedicated to his deceased father. He has also served two years in the U.S Army, as did his father.
Asher, 21, has raised close to $20,000 dollars in order to build a library commemorating his father.
Chedva has persisted in leading the charge to seek truth and justice in this case in an effort to help prevent such tragedies in the future. She also plans on establishing a support group for children who have lost parents.
The Federman family can be reached at (414) 299-9241 or PO Box 11356 Milwaukee, WI 53211