SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Attorneys for actor Ron Ely and his family are challenging a recent review of a 2019 shooting that took the life of the actor's son, Cameron Ely, after a 911 call to the family home about a reported attack on his mother, Ron's wife Valerie Lundeen Ely.
Ron Ely was a former TV star in the Tarzan series.
In a press release issues ahead of a news conference Thursday, the attorneys say they will present new evidence that they say will prove Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies "engaged in the unjustified use of deadly force and denial of medical care, resulting in the deaths of Ely’s wife and son exactly one year earlier."
A District Attorney's report last week said the shooting was justified.
It was based on interviews with the deputies called to the scene and forensics analysis.
“The deputies engaged in a summary execution of Cameron Ely and intentionally denied lifesaving medical care to Valerie Ely, in contrast with protocol and longstanding practice,” said DeWitt M. Lacy, a civil rights attorney with the Law Offices of John L. Burris, which represents the Ely family.
“The shooting of Cameron was unconscionable; there is zero evidence supporting police claims alleging that Cameron said he had a gun,” said Attorney John L. Burris, who has litigated hundreds of cases involving wrongful police actions, Burris said “The shooting of Cameron was one of the most egregious uses of excessive deadly force that I have ever seen.”
A federal civil rights lawsuit, filed last month, says Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies responding to Cameron’s 911 call for emergency services that night found Ron Ely’s wife, Valerie, 62, lying on the floor suffering from multiple stab wounds. Rather than assist, deputies prevented attempts to render aid, the lawsuit says.
The District Attorney's report said deputies searched the property that had limited lighting and there was a time gap between when they arrived and when Cameron Ely appeared. It also said he claimed to have a gun.
The DA report specifically says Ely "suddenly sprang upward" when he was contacted by deputies. Then he "bent forward at the waist, quickly moved his hands toward his waist, and yelled, 'I have a gun!' Each of the four deputies reported hearing Ely say those words 'very clearly' 'clear as day' and described his voice as a 'yell,' 'loud,' 'aggressive and determined,' in a 'warning, taunting' way.
Speaking in front of the house, Burris said, "it's pretty clear that even though there are a lot of statements made by the police, that there's no statement at all, none, where Cameron has said that he had a gun, there's no statement at all that said to get on the ground. And so if he didn't have a gun and he didn't have a weapon what was the basis for shooting him?"
Several pieces of body cam video from the Sheriff's deputies were shown, including the first moments when they were inside the house with Valerie on the floor after the violent attack and Ron nearby in a wheelchair.
NewsChannel 3 video the night of the shooting recorded the sound of multiple gunshots and a deputy running to the house from a parked patrol car.
Ron Ely's daughters Kirsten Ely and Kaitlin Ely-Sweet spoke, describing their emotional losses in one night of their mother and their brother. They described Cameron as an athlete, a musician and someone with a contagious laugh.
Kirsten said, however, her mother was neglected at the scene by arriving deputies. "Our hearts break every time we think that the simple act of checking her pulse, administering CPR or immediately calling medics could have given us back our mom and allowed our father many more years the love of his life," she said.
The body cam video shows deputies with their weapons drawn attempting to "clear the house," a term used when law enforcement searches for whoever may be present.
The Ely family said they cooperated with detectives but at one point communications broke down, leaving them without investigation updates.
They also said items were found on the property that did not belong to the family including a hat.
Deputies said Cameron Ely had items in his possession including a deck of playing cards, rocks, and a white powdery substance later determined to be cocaine.
It's unclear where he went after the 911 call, and why he did not immediately respond when deputies arrived.
The DA report says Dr. Manuel Montez a forensic pathologist reviewed the evidence in the case. He found 22 gunshot wounds to Ely's torso, neck, back, buttocks, and arms. The report says none of the wounds were from close range.
Montez also determined that Valerie Ely had stab wounds and blunt force injuries to her head, face, chest, abdomen, arms, hands and legs. Her death was determined to be from stab wounds.
Both Cameron and Valerie Ely's deaths were certified as homicide.
The investigation also showed Ron Ely was incapable of the assaults on Valerie due to his condition in a wheelchair following a stroke.
An expert analysis of the area where the multiple shots were fired showed one bullet was discovered in the area of a side door to the house. Another into a vehicle in an open garage nearby. This was on the east side of the property where a stone driveway leads to parking and a back yard.
Aside from the body cam video, there are no other cameras known to be operating on the property.
Lacy said Cameron Ely, a former star high school football player, had a knee injury that would have made it unlikely he could leap up as the deputies described.
The team of attorneys and family members repeated several times, they believe the timeline details and descriptions by the deputies were not truthful.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley said if new evidence was presented she would consider it. Her office had a team of veteran investigators involved in the evidence review to conclude the killing was justified.
The Ely family said it may ask another agency, possibly the California State Attorney General's office to do another review.
In response to the Ely Attorneys Press Conference, Sheriff Brown issued the following statement:
“Unlike the plaintiff’s attorneys in this case, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and the County of Santa Barbara takes seriously our professional obligation to avoid undue pretrial publicity about this matter since it is currently in litigation. It is important to remember that the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ allegations are just that – allegations, not facts. We will respond to these allegations later, and at the appropriate place, the District Court.”Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown