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A wrongful death suit has been filed over the shooting of the young Fairfield, California councilman Matt Garcia. Garcia was shot and killed on killed Sept. 1, 2008, by two men who mistook him for someone else. Garcia's mother, Teresa Courtemanche, filed the $16 million dollar suit on Wednesday, July 14, against Henry Don Williams, Gene Allen Combs and Nicole Stewart.
The Vallejo Times-Herald reports that Williams and Combs were convicted in the shooting death of Garcia; Williams for first-degree and Combs for second-degree murder. Prosecutors in the case say the men mistook Garcia for a drug dealer who owed Combs money. Nicole Stewart was alleged to have been behind the wheel of the car that drove the men away from the scene. She made a deal to testify against Williams and Combs and was never charged with a crime. After her testimony, she was placed in a witness protection program. It is unclear how she will be found to be served with notice of the suit.
Courtemanche, however believes that justice was not done since Stewart was not charged with a crime. "It's symbolic for our family and for the whole community. So many people got outraged that Nicole got off with nothing," she said.
According to the Times-Herald the suit is seeking $10 million in punitive damages, plus actual expenses to the family stemming from Garcia's death, his potential financial contribution to the family, and loss of comfort and companionship. However, Courtemanche's attorney says the action is not about the money. He acknowledges there will most likely be little to be had. The family says the suit is about the principle of what is right.
According to Matt Garcia's mother, any money generated from the lawsuit would go to The Matt Garcia Foundation, which she founded to "support youth, stop crime and strengthen the community," the principles on which Garcia based his campaign and lived his life.
Matt Garcia would have turned 24 on Wednesday, July 14.