On Memorial Day, 2011, Raymond Zack died off Crown Beach in Alameda, California, while more than twenty police and fire personnel, who responded to the 911 call, stood on the beach and watched him die. Claiming they were not authorized to give rescue aid in the water surrounding this island community due to budget cuts, they refused to intervene when Mr. Zack sank beneath the waves. Instead, a female bystander jumped into the shallow water and pulled Mr. Zack to shore, where witnesses stated he was still breathing. While the 911 calls tried to characterize Mr. Zack’s actions as an attempted suicide, there was no one besides the 911 dispatch and the first responders who actually used that term. There were also a number of other violations of protocol which contributed to Mr. Zack’s death.
Since the date of his death, the City of Alameda and its fire department have spent considerable effort attempting to mollify public anger while not in fact dealing with the real problems that led to this tragic incident. While the City of Alameda made statements that they would deal with these failures of their city employees and managers in an open and transparent manner, they have been to date far from open and transparent. Additionally, the County of Alameda’s 911 dispatch center operator who handled the initial emergency calls, failed to follow proper procedure, resulting in additional failures on the part of the emergency responders. And, questions have arisen as to whether Mr. Zack was in fact still breathing when he was finally brought to shore, as well as events that transpired with the ambulance crew that transported Mr. Zack to the hospital.
Both the City and the County of Alameda have now denied the claims filed against both entities by the family of Raymond Zack, leaving the family with no other choice than to file suit in pursuit of justice for their brother, and to find answers to the many questions still unresolved. The Cartwright Law Firm, representing the family, has diligently attempted negotiations with the City and the County to reach a reasonable settlement without the need for litigation, but to no avail. Given the extreme nature of this case, especially in how it has resulted in a deep loss of trust in the emergency responders in the City of Alameda, and in the face of alleged misconduct of some members of the City government, this case will seek to hold the City and the County accountable for the failures of actions and operational decisions that led to Mr. Zack’s unnecessary early death.