State trooper injured in shootout files lawsuit against county
Nic Cederberg, the Oregon State Police trooper shot a dozen times during a shootout with an armed man in Washington County two years ago, has filed a lawsuit against the county's 9-1-1 service, as well as more than 20 others, alleging a series of missteps that led to his near fatal shooting.
Cederberg and his wife, Hayley Shelton, filed the lawsuit in federal court on Monday, Nov. 26, seeking $30 million in economic and non-economic damages.
Cederberg was assigned to patrol Washington County, where he worked out of an office in North Plains. On Dec. 25, 2016, Beaverton resident James Tylka shot and killed his estranged wife Katelyn Tylka-Armand in front of his parents' home in King City. Cederberg was visiting family in Tigard when he received word that authorities in the area were searching to Tylka, who had fled the scene in his white Mitsubishi.
"I'm going to see what I can do to help," Nic Cederberg's brother Jeff later recalled him saying. "Nic went out and saved lives that night. He put his life on the line to protect those who couldn't do it themselves."
Cederberg left his family to respond to the call and quickly spotted Tylka's vehicle. Turning on his police car's lights and sirens, Cederberg pursued Tylka to a narrow road just outside of Sherwood. Tylka rammed Cederberg's car and the two exchanged gunfire, where Cederberg was shot a dozen times. Five shots were stopped by Cederberg's bulletproof vest, but others struck him in both arms and torso, hitting his lungs and abdomen. Two others hit his spinal canal, nearly paralyzing him. Tylka later turned the gun on himself when he was confronted by Cederberg's backup.
In the nearly two years since the shooting, Cederberg has suffered "severe" pain in his lower extremities and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.
Cederberg is seeking $2 million for pain and suffering, and an additional $18 million for future pain and suffering, with loss to his quality of life.
Cederberg's wife, Shelton, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau, is seeking $10 million in damages. Shelton has taken over as Cederberg's full-time caregiver, she said, and his injuries have put a serious strain on their relationship.
The couple are also seeking additional economic damages, which will be decided by a jury, should the lawsuit reach a courtroom.
The $30 million lawsuit names a Washington County Sheriff's deputy and an emergency room physician as defendants, as well as the county's 9-1-1 system, the Washington County Cooperative Communications Agency, and several others, including county dispatchers, Washington county Sheriff Pat Garrett, Legacy Meridian Park Medical CEnter and the executive board of the WCCCA.
Claims against WCCCA
The lawsuit alleges a number of failings led to Tylka-Armand's murder and Cederberg's shooting on Dec. 25, 2016. Cederberg claims at least three issues could have been addressed to keep Tylka-Armand alive or prevent Cederberg from being shot.
On the night of the shooting, emergency dispatchers with the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency issued a countywide request for law enforcement to be on the lookout for Tylka's white Mitsubishi, but Cederberg's lawsuit alleges dispatchers did not alert him that Tylka was armed and dangerous, something Cederberg says dispatchers knew at the time.
Oregon State Police troopers reportedly used a different dispatch system that was not linked with WCCCA, Cederberg's lawsuit claims. Troopers were unable to call up incident information in the WCCCA system on patrol car terminals, and State Police equipment was incompatible with WCCCA radio frequencies. This meant state troopers like Cederberg had to monitor two separate radios at once, making them "less efficient and far less certain of receiving critical information" about incidents.
Dispatchers did relay information to other police and deputies in the WCCCA system that Tylka was armed, but Cederberg did not get the information, he said. Nor did county dispatchers relay that information to Oregon State Police dispatchers when they called WCCCA and spoke with them.
That lack of critical information greatly changed how Cederberg reacted to the incident, the lawsuit said. Had Cederberg known Tylka was armed, dangerous and suicidal he may not have decided to turn on the crusier's police sirens and chase Tylka to a dark and relatively isolated rural dead-end road, he said.
Claims against the Sheriff's Office
Tylka had a history of mental illness and violent outbursts, Cederberg's lawsuit claims. He threatened Tylka-Armand several times in the weeks before her murder and the lawsuit alleges Washington County Sheriff's deputies had the opportunity to arrest him before her death, but failed to act.
Tylka-Armand called police on Nov. 29, 2016 — about a month before her death — reporting that her estranged husband had been harassing her and making violent threats. She told deputies Tylka was bipolar and mentally unstable. He had threatened to kill her and their infant child, threatened to harm Tylka-Armand's boyfriends and claimed to have purchased knives which he planned to use in their murders. She hadn't been sleeping at home or going to work for fear Tylka might find her, the lawsuit claims. The threats made her fear for her life, she reportedly told deputies.
A Washington County Sheriff's deputy interviewed her and Tylka that day. According to Cederberg's lawsuit, Tylka admitted to threatening his wife, but the deputy opted not to arrest him.
Cederberg claims the deputy had a mandatory duty to arrest Tylka. Under Oregon law, police are required to arrest domestic violence suspects if there is probable cause to believe they made domestic partners fear of imminent serious physical injury, Cederberg said.
The Washington County Sheriff's office "failed to train their deputy sheriffs ... that the duty to arrest perpetrators of domestic violence is mandatory" and not open to a deputy's discretion, Cederberg alleges.
Cederberg said the Washington County Sheriff's office has had a history of failing to arrest abusers. In 2013, Kenneth Van Patten murdered his wife and wounded a house guest before committing suicide. He had also been interviewed by deputies for threatening his family, Cederberg claims, but was not arrested either.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office released a statement Tuesday, Nov. 28, saying Cederberg acted heroically that night.
"We recognize the sacrifices he made to protect our community that night and the sacrificies he has made throughout his career," the county said. "We continue to send our best wishes to Trooper Cederberg and his family.''
Claims against Meridian Park Medical Center
The day after Tylka-Armand called police, Tylka reportedly attempted suicide and was taken to Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center for treatment. A doctor at the hospital's emergency room allegedly did not admit Tylka for emergency psychiatric care, despite knowing that Tylka was suicidal and had been placed on a police hold by authorities in King City, who brought him to the hospital after he purposfully overdosed on insulin. Instead, the doctor told King City police that Tylka's situation "sounded like a criminal matter." Tylka did not receive any mental health treatment and was released from the hospital later that same evening.
"…Had Mr. Tylka been admitted for emergency mental health treatment," Cederberg alleged in the lawsuit, "he would have … received in-custody mental health treatment sufficient to prevent his mental illness from producing the homicidal and suicidal behavior that erupted on Dec. 25, 2016, or would have remained in custody in an appropriate mental health treatment facility and not at large on (the night of Tylka-Armand's murder)."
Cederberg remains a trooper with the Oregon State Police. Cederberg said his employment has been modified to accomodate his recovery.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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