Sandy Guardiola's family will be filing a civil rights suit in federal court according to their attorneys after a grand jury determined Sgt. Scott Kadien of the Canandaigua City Police Department was justified in his use of deadly physical force against the off-duty parole officer killed Oct. 4 at her Pinnacle North apartment.
The family of New York State Parole Officer Sandy Guardiola, who was fatally shot in her bedroom Oct. 4, are outraged no charges will be filed against Canandaigua Police Sgt. Scott Kadien, the officer who shot her while checking on her welfare.
An Ontario County grand jury has found Kadien was justified in using deadly physical force against Guardiola after she shot at him.
Luna Droubi, an attorney with the New York City firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman, said Monday a civil rights wrongful death suit will be filed in federal court on behalf of Guardiola's family and estate.
“I want them to remember who the victim is here,” Guardiola's son Andrew Ocasio says in a press release issued shortly after Ontario County District Attorney Jim Ritts and law enforcement officers conducted a press conference at State Police Troop E headquarters in Farmington to announce the grand jury's findings.
Ritts said the grand jury met last week when it heard from multiple witnesses, reviewed medical records and viewed photographs, ultimately determining Kadien was justified in his use of deadly physical force after being fired at by Guardiola, who was raising her gun again when Kadien fired three shots at her.
Guardiola died later that day at UR Medicine Thompson Hospital.
“He believed that he was confronted by the use or imminent use of deadly physical force against him and his belief was objectively reasonable,” Ritts said of Kadien.
“My mom is the victim,” Ocasio says. “My mom was shot and killed in her own home. All of these excuses they keep trying to make do not erase that important point.”
Ritts explained Canandaigua police had been summoned by representatives of Pinnacle North, where Guardiola resided, after they were contacted by her employer over concern that she had not returned to work that day as expected after being out for a couple of weeks recovering from injuries she suffered in a car accident near Syracuse.
Ritts said Guardiola did not call her employer and did not respond to multiple calls so police were called to conduct what is called a welfare check, something he said is very common. He said she also did not respond to multiple knocks on the door by Pinnacle employees.
“Frankly, when he went in, he expected to find her deceased,” Ritts said, recounting Kadien's actions. “When he attempted to communicate with Sandy Guardiola, she wasn't able to verbalize her response. Her mouth was moving, but words weren't coming out.”
He said Kadien stepped out of the bedroom, called dispatch to request an ambulance and went back into Guardiola's bedroom.
“The evidence seems to indicate that at that point, Sandy Guardiola is taking the gun from under her pillow,” Ritts said. “It discharges. It gets pointed in his direction. That's when he draws his sidearm. He gives verbal commands not to move the gun. The gun starts to move. It's pulled up. He says 'Don't do it, Sandy. Sandy, don't do it,' and at that point, he discharges his weapon three times.”
He said once Guardiola's gun went down, he stopped firing. He said Guardiola's service weapon, a 9mm Glock, was still in her hand when it was recovered.
Ritts said Kadien was in full dress uniform with police patches and his badge, clearly indicating he was a police officer, and he identified himself as such multiple times.
“When confronted with deadly physical force, it leaves you few options,” he said. “The only option he had that day was to use deadly physical force.”
Canandaigua Police Chief Stephen Hedworth said Kadien has been on administrative leave or administrative duty since the shooting, but would return to full service. He said his department will be wrapping up its administrative investigation, but based on everything it has seen, they were confident Kadien followed procedures.
Ritts noted Canandaigua police immediately turned the investigation over to state police and other than giving three depositions, was not involved so the investigation could remain independent.
He said he had no idea why Guardiola fired her weapon and that Kadien, expecting to talk to a fellow peace officer, never expected to be confronted.
Ritts said toxicology reports showed a drug “that appeared to be greater than a therapeutic level.” He said the drug was doxepin, an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant, that would have been consistent with being lethargic, semiconscious or nonresponsive.
“What do my mother's medical issues have to do with the fact that she was murdered in her bed?” asks Guardiola's daughter Alysa Ocasio in the press release. “Once, again, the authorities continue to make excuses to justify the officer's illegal actions. I am sad and disappointed that a system that my mother devoted her life to has failed her on such a catastrophic level.”
Ritts said the investigation by state police was extensive, thorough and independent. He said Sarah Utter, his office's victim-witness coordinator, spoke to Guardiola's son Monday morning before the press conference.
“He was understandably emotional and upset,” Ritts said. “This is a terrible thing for the family. We recognize that. I'm sure I speak for everybody here when I say our hearts go out and our prayers continue to go out to the family.”
Droubi, noting Guardiola was a two-time cancer survivor who had been out of work a couple of weeks on medical leave due to the accident, said Kadien unlawfully accessed a key card and entered Guardiola's apartment and then shot and killed her while she was in her bed.
“The family has largely been kept in the dark during much of the alleged investigations that have taken place,” she said. “The facts as stated by the authorities defy logic. We will be filing a lawsuit shortly with the facts as we believe happened. It is clear to the family that justice will not be sought on their behalf by the authorities. The family has no other recourse, but to seek justice for Ms. Guardiola through a wrongful death action.”