NAPA, Calif. - Juan Adrian Garcia was celebrating. He had just gotten a second job as a chef. But instead, after a night of drinking, he was shot and killed by a Napa County sheriff's sergeant back in October.
The sergeant said he fired because Garcia advanced at him with one arm behind his back during a traffic stop.
"The officer could tell from the very beginning that he was unarmed," said Michael Haddad, the family's attorney. "He could see both his hands."
Garcia's family plans to sue Napa County. On Tuesday, Haddad filed a legal claim on their behalf, the first step toward a lawsuit.
"What it looks like to me is that the officer just panicked," Haddad said. "And now they're caught trying to come up with an excuse after the fact."
A Napa sheriff's spokesman said Tuesday that officials could not comment because they had not seen the claim.
Body-cam video shows Sgt. David Ackman pulled Garcia over for driving without headlights on the night of Oct. 5.
Instead of staying in his car near Highway 221 and Kaiser Road, the 47-year-old Garcia threw his cell phone out the window, then got out of his car and walked toward the sergeant with one hand behind his back.
The sergeant moved backward, told him to stop, and even moved around his patrol car, but Garcia kept advancing, authorities said.
Garcia died the next day after being shot six times.
Deputies confirmed that Garcia was not armed. But they say he had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit.
"Having had alcohol doesn't justify deadly force against you - it's not a death-penalty crime," Haddad said. "Obviously, he shouldn't have been driving."
Ackman is a 21-year veteran of the sheriff's office. He was placed on administrative leave shortly after the shooting but is since back on duty.
Garcia leaves behind three kids and his wife, who say his death destroyed their family.
"There's really no reason to think that Juan wanted to die that day," Haddad said. "To the contrary, he wanted to live. And the officer had no right to take his life."