Family of the late parole officer killed in an officer-involved shooting last October files suit on the one-year anniversary of her death.
CANANDAIGUA — For Andrew and Alysa Ocasio, the late Sandy Guardiola served as both mother and father, someone who could offer hard lessons and gentleness. She was someone Andrew said he could call, for something as simple as advice on how to cook something.
“My mom was my everything,” he said, during an emotional press conference Thursday — a year to the day Guardiola was shot and killed in her bed by a Canandaigua police officer.
“So many times this year I’ve reached for my phone to call her … she’s not there,” he said through tears. “It’s been a crazy year, but above all, she taught me and my sister to always fight for what you believe is right. We’re gonna make sure we do everything, everything to make sure she didn’t live for nothing.”
Guardiola’s family on Thursday morning filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court, seeking $50 million in damages as well as accountability and justice, said Jonathan Moore, an attorney with Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP in New York City.
The suit, which alleges Guardiola's death was caused by flagrant violations of her 4th and 14th Amendment rights, names the city of Canandaigua, Police Chief Stephen Hedworth, Sgt. Scott Kadien — the shooter — three people from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision parole office in Rochester, and the property manager of the Pinnacle North apartments, where Guardiola lived.
“We are now going to take the offensive,” said Moore, who alleges Kadien’s version of the events that day are “factually incorrect” and he should never have been in the bedroom or her apartment as there was no credible evidence of an emergency.
“There is only one person who is alive who can speak to what happened that day,” Moore said. “So far, Sgt. Kadien has not done much speaking.”
The city issued a statement after the press conference in Canandaigua, saying in part the city’s general policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation and the city looks forward to a judicial resolution.
The city also continues to express condolences to the Guardiola family for their loss.
“We find it important to remind the community that this matter was independently and fully investigated by the New York State Police and they concluded that our officer’s conduct was justified,” the city statement reads. “The results of that investigation were also presented by the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office to a grand jury. The grand jury determined that there were not grounds to support an indictment.”
Ontario County District Attorney James Ritts declined to comment.
Guardiola, 48, was shot to death in her bed at a Pinnacle North residence during a wellness check by Kadien initiated by a call from the Rochester parole office.
Guardiola, who was off-duty at the time, had been out of work for several weeks while recovering from injuries she suffered and was to have reported for work that day, but had not, which prompted the welfare check.
State Police investigators said Guardiola was lying in her bed and not speaking coherently shortly after Kadien entered the residence. Investigators said she fired a shot with her service gun after Kadien told her, “Don’t, Sandy, don’t.” State Police said she then pointed the gun at Kadien, who fired his weapon after he again urged her not to pick up her weapon. She died later at the hospital.
No charges were filed against Kadien after an Ontario County grand jury earlier this year found he was justified in using deadly force.
Moore said a forensic pathologist retained by the firm has said that version of what happened is impossible, given the trajectory of the bullets that pierced her body that day.
“We don’t know everything that happened, but we know form the forensic evidence that she was not in the position Sgt. Kadien said she was in when he shot her,” Moore said.
Moore called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to convene a grand jury investigation and appoint a special prosecutor to “get to the bottom of what happened.”
Moore also said he takes issue with the police department’s health and wellness check policy and training, alleging people are not trained properly.
Alysa Ocasio said she and her family have been searching for answers and justice for a year, noting her mother was a member of law enforcement for over 20 years
“The system that she devoted her life to has failed her,” Moore said.
Guardiola had a stellar, 20-plus-year career with the state. After a diagnosis with breast cancer, she studied to earn a master’s degree in social work, which she used in her role as a parole officer, Moore said.
Guardiola, who had been out of work while recovering from a car crash, was anxious to return to work, Moore said.
“This is a woman who was embracing the future and was eager to get on with her life,” Moore said.
The justice the family is seeking is that this doesn’t happen to anyone else again and that the protocol for health and welfare checks is changed, said Andrew Ocasio.
“I don’t want anyone to have to go through what me and my sister and my family have to go through,” he said.