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Judge Dismisses Crown Beach Drowning Case Against City

An Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed the suit against the City of Alameda by relatives of a man who drowned in an apparent suicide near Crown Beach while firefighters and police stood by under rules barring a rescue.

An Alameda County judge today, Monday, dismissed the lawsuit against the City of Alameda filed by the brother and sister of Raymond Zack, who drowned off Crown Beach in May 2011 as city firefighters and police stood by.

Superior Court Judge George Hernandez found that "under the circumstances presented, there was no moral blame attendant to the conduct of responding officers and firefighters." 

The wrongful death suit against the city was filed last May by Robert Zack, Bernice Jolliff and the Estate of Raymond Zack.

In a reported suicide, Raymond Zack, 52, had gone about 150 yards into the water at Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach on May 30.

His death led to widespread public outrage and to a report by an independent consultant to the City of Alameda and the revival of the Alameda Fire Department's water rescue program.

At the time of Zack's death, fire and police personnel at the scene did not attempt a rescue. They waited for the arrival of a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat, but that boat could not reach Zack in the relatively shallow water. His body was eventually brought to shore by a civilian bystander. 

The Alameda Fire Department's water rescue program had lapsed, its boats in disrepair and its rescue swimmers uncertified for lack of recent training. Under the department's written policies, uncertified swimmers were not allowed to enter the water to attempt rescue operations, a standard policy for virtually all agencies with water rescue programs in California.

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Zack was so distraught that he took his own life," City Attorney Janet Kern said in a statement following today's court ruling. "However, the ruling amounts to a finding that the responding police officers and firefighters acted reasonably and diligently in what was undeniably a very difficult situation."

The judge's ruling is attached to this article.

A.N. Maus February 12, 2013 at 04:23 PM
They are cowards, all of them! We pay taxes to city departments that have NO DUTY to actually deliver the services we pay for? Where is the outrage in this city? Shame on this government, and especially, on this fire department.
Alamedian February 12, 2013 at 05:01 PM
They have no duty to do their job, but we have a duty to pay our property taxes that fund them, don't we?
Lisbeth Allen February 12, 2013 at 05:03 PM
“The court finds that under the circumstances presented, there was no moral blame attendant to the conduct of responding officers and firefighters,” Judge Hernandez wrote in a ruling released Monday. Specific circumstances - meaning the man wanted to commit suicide and he was free to achieve his final wish, uninterrupted by "rescue". RIP Raymond Zack. I'm happy that you are finally free of your pain. So sorry that people wanted to prolong your painful life for their own purposes.
10dB February 12, 2013 at 07:25 PM
When interviewed on TV, the lawyer for the Zacks said that the Police also prevented civilians from trying to rescue Zack. If the Fire or Police personnel don't want to rescue the guy, okay. But why prevent others from trying? I'd be interested in seeing if that was specifically addressed in this ruling. Oh, before someone says that the police had a specific job to prevent others from harming themselves trying to rescue Zack, what if someone came in from the water? Would the police have swum out to them to forbid them to try a rescue? This whole incident made (and still makes me) suspicious about the way Alameda's police and fire departments are run.
alameda vigilante February 12, 2013 at 07:32 PM
No, Jenna. You weren't in the courtroom. I was The circumstances were what was presented by the attorneys. This verdict was not the judge’s fault. This case was not going to prosecute itself. Zack’s lawyers were pathetic. They failed to even allege the duty created by declaring Zack a 5150. They focused on the red herrings of no boat & no training, which were immaterial to the duty created by a 5150. Read the decision for yourself; it’s only 5 double-spaced pages. What this verdict means to the community is: once APD declares someone a.]Gravely disabled; or b.]Danger to self [2 of the 5150 criteria]; they no longer have a duty to assist or protect that person. So, in the interest of efficient use of resources & taxpayer money, I suggest the APD cease enforcing California Welfare & Institutions code 5150 altogether. They're not going to save you from yourself and they should no longer get paid just to stand around & watch. ..
Lisbeth Allen February 12, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Anyone that would want to intervene to try and save this man for their own personal reasons are selfish. You can try to justify your reasoning that he should have been 5150'd to make it a legal duty. So you want to lock him up for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation? Then what? He was too distraught to straighten up for evaluation and then he would be committed indefinitely in an institution. He would be sedated. I've known two neighbors that ended up in institutions. The one that I knew more intimately went in and out of an institution gradually ending up cramped into a tiny room at a board and care. She was devastated at being warehoused and they eventually committed her to a psych institution where she was heavily sedated. Both people eventually choked to death while eating due to the constant sedation. How dare you say that you care? He wanted to die. It was his life, not yours. Worry about your own life.
alameda vigilante February 12, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Jenna, the record shows that Zack WAS 5150'd. That's a fact, not my speculation. There's no evidence Zack "wanted to die". We still don't know why he died out there. Now we probably never will.
Michael February 13, 2013 at 01:45 PM
The taxpayers have to pay for attorneys to defend the right of city employees to do nothing.
joan February 13, 2013 at 03:47 PM
i completely agree with jenna. mental illness is devastating for all involved. he had enough of it by 52 years of age. let him rest in peace now. and we wonder why children today are demonstrating a lack of respect for authority figures? back off our public servants! smile a little more, complain a little less. you'll be amazed at how much better life will be. it starts with you, and slowly spreads...
joel February 13, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Brave Alameda firemen ...and Women . the only thing you are good at is using the shinny ladder truck to go shopping at south shore with blasting sirens. Not a single life has been saved by the AFD even 2 blocks away from the station not a single stucture either , The Oakland Fire Dept saved your day over and over. How do you call the OFD? just remember that the next time you call them ! Do you know what they call you ? let me enlight you ,as it is actually pretty funny ... it goes like that : code .. the sassy beaches with glitters need help with their tuxedos they have other colorfull nickname , like two left footers or 2 rightfooters somer are more funny than other , some cannot be printed here. I wonder if the fireman that jumped in the Boston harbor went and check his job description and contract before hiiting the ice cold water to save a lady pretty much in the same situation as mr zach , now that's a real Man those are real Firemen. Watching for over 45 minutes someone in 60 degrees water , let Him Flip over and allow a small woman to go and retrieve Him , Is pretty pathetic , she had to get your authorization to go in the water , she was not even a third of his weight . Hire any public relation you want useless . It is very obvious you don't like the water , then stay in Lafayette , Alamo , Fairfield you wont have to commute either no need to fioll up your vehicle at the City's pump .
joel February 13, 2013 at 11:57 PM
This Mayor owed them Her position without the slanderous campaign by the alameda Fire Dept and extrem right wing , she would have never been elected , same for the City manager ,
joel February 14, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Excuse me ,why do we have mental institution , how do you know if it was a cry for help or suicide ? Why does the golden gates bridge spend millions of dollars in safety net , to save live , it is a Medical fact most which recieved proper care do not try it again . Finally walking in water is far from being consider a rescue , watching someone for over 45 minutes to die is moraly reprehensible , allow a small woman to go in the water and retrieve the body speak volume .

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