The untold story of Andrea Heath (“Officer Heath”), of the Riverside (California) Police Department, is one of the most saddest and heart wrenching stories of corruption, abuse and harassment that I have ever read.
According to her online obituary, Ms. Andrea Danelle Heath, was born on March 28, 1969, in San Bernardino, California. She was a graduate of the Redwoods Law Enforcement Training Center. On October 8, 2013, Officer Heath committed suicide, after enduring, what was alleged to be, years of harassment and abuse at the hands of her fellow Police Officers and various law enforcement personnel.
A copy of the Civil Complaint can be viewed here.
Below is the report from Kia Farhang, with the Desert Sun News. Kia Farhang is a local reporter for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at (760)778- 4625, kia.Farhang@desertsun.com or on Twitter @KiaFarhang.
Desert Hot Springs and several of its employees pushed a former police officer to commit suicide, her family is alleging in a federal lawsuit. Most of the defendants in the case no longer work for the city.
Heath’s family is seeking for more than $30 million in damages. The earlier lawsuit, also filed in federal court, is awaiting a conference between attorneys.
Laura Kalty, who represents the city and other defendants – including former police chiefs and a former city manager – in the earlier case, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Heath started her job with the department in 1996. The city demoted her to trainee status more than a decade later, finally putting her on disability retirement in 2011.
The city has argued Heath performed poorly and didn’t respond to training.
But Steering said her involuntary retirement came after years of harassment that stemmed from Heath’s cooperation with an FBI investigation.
Heath spoke to federal investigators — who were already probing the department — in 2007. She told them she saw many Desert Hot Springs officers “falsely arrest, beat, tase, pepper-spray and otherwise torture” detainees and arrestees, according to court documents.
After Heath spoke to the FBI, other officers refused to back her up on dangerous calls, referred to her as a “rat” and tampered with her office computer, the lawsuits claim.
A grand jury later indicted two of Heath’s colleagues for civil rights violations. One pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and served community service. The other, Sgt. Anthony Sclafani, drew a four-year prison sentence in 2012 for using excessive force against suspects. He’s one of 10 people named in the Heath family’s new lawsuit.
Mark Kitabayashi, an attorney for Sclafani and another former officer, said in an email he hadn’t seen the latest lawsuit and therefore couldn’t comment.
Heath’s suicide deprived her two children of their mother and caused them “great mental and emotional distress,” the lawsuit claims.
Andrea Heath shot herself in the head two years ago amid another lawsuit against the city, in which she claimed her fellow officers harassed and intimidated her for reporting their use of excessive force to federal investigators.
Her son and the father of Heath’s daughter are still continuing that case in her absence. But they sued the city and many former officers again Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, claiming for the first time that colleagues and supervisors’ actions caused Heath to commit suicide in 2013 in her Cathedral City apartment.
“They didn’t pull the trigger, but they drove her to it,” said Jerry Steering, who represents Heath’s family. “They know what they did. It’s time for them to pay for it.”
Rest In Peace Andrea. May the Lord continue to place his loving arms around your family.
Please see dedication video from her family. What a touching tribute.