Family of West Michigan Man Fatally Shot by Sheriff’s Deputy Is Suing Over His Death

​The family of Oscar Herrera, who was shot and killed earlier this year by a Hillsdale County sheriff’s deputy, has filed a lawsuit claiming the officer’s actions violated Herrera’s constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizure.

Earlier this year, a deputy with the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department shot and killed a man and his dog. Now, his family is filing a federal complaint against the law enforcement agency.   

Oscar Herrera, 32, was shot and killed in April outside his home in Reading Township by a Hillsdale County deputy who was responding to a complaint of a loose dog. State police said Herrera confronted Deputy Adam Burlew with a knife. The suit claims the deputy’s actions violated Herrera’s constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizure.  

“When [Deputy Adam Burlew] got there, it was clear there was no dog on the loose. At that point, Burlew had no probable cause, and he should have left at that time.” –Ian Fallon, attorney for Oscar Herrera’s family

Attorney Ian Fallon says the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department is liable for allowing excessive force on citizens.  

“Oscar was peacefully spending a Wednesday night at home with his dog Rico when Deputy Adam Burlew of the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department entered onto his property looking for an uncontrolled or loose dog,” Fallon says. “When he got there, it was clear there was no dog on the loose. At that point, Burlew had no probable cause, and he should have left at that time.” 

Fallon says the responding deputy blocked footage from his body worn camera after the shooting.  

“When paramedics and backup officers arrive, he shouts that Oscar has a knife under him. It’s never photographed under Oscar, but the scene is processed by the Michigan State Police and other law enforcement personnel,” Fallon says.  

A paramedic later found a folding knife in a closed position on the ground, though the knife was open with the blade sticking out when state police recovered it, the lawsuit states. 

As shown in a bodycam video obtained by WWMT, Burlew was responding to a complaint about a loose dog when he came to Herrera’s home.  

Herrera’s dog, Rico, was inside the house when the deputy arrived but suddenly darted through the door when Herrera opened it, according to the lawsuit. Upon opening the door, Herrera’s dog charged the deputy, who responded with gun fire, killing the animal. Herrera was visibly upset, saying Rico was his best friend.   

Burlew told Herrera that he shot the dog in response to being bitten. While standing over Rico, 20 feet away, Herrera took two steps toward Burlew. The deputy then fired his gun, according to the lawsuit. 

Fallon says the state attorney general’s office should investigate the case. 

Family: Our Suffering Continues

Guadalupe Herrera, the mother of Oscar Herrera, said she was not contacted by the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department until after she prompted communication, finding out about her son’s death officially the following day. 

“Oscar was my only son. His death ended my family lineage. I will no longer have any descendants,” says Guadalupe Herrera. 

Cousin Dolores Luna says their family has been traumatized by the event. 

“In his last moments of life, Oscar was filled with agonizing grief and fear,” Luna says. “And while his suffering is over, ours continues.” 

The Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department did not comment on the lawsuit.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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  • Dorothy Hernandez
    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.