Officer Joseph Lamantia is charged with voluntary manslaughter.By Velena Jones

MODESTO (CBS13) – A Modesto police officer who shot and killed 29-year-old Trevor Seever while responding to a 911 call in December was fired after investigators determined the use of deadly force was in violation of the department’s policies, the department announced on Thursday.

Joseph Lamantia (credit: Modesto Police Department)

Officer Joseph Lamantia was informed of his termination Thursday morning after a two-and-a-half-month investigation into the deadly shooting, which happened on December 29, 2020.

Lamantia shot Seever several times on December 29. Modesto police said officers were called to the 2300 block of Woodland Avenue near The Church of Brethren after receiving a call from Allison Seever, Trevor’s sister, who said her brother bought a gun and was making threats. A gun was not located at the scene.

The Modesto Police Department said it learned Wednesday that Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager is filing charges against Lamantia.

Court records show Lamantia was arraigned Thursday afternoon for felony voluntary manslaughter. It’s a rare move according to Attorney Mark Reichel.

“Ordinarily, because of the rules and the laws that were so favorable for police officers in this type of encounter, you rarely had such a sanction, even discipline in employment, let alone actual criminal charges. The last time we really heard something like this was Rodney king in the ’80s,” Reichel said.

Reichel said while it’s difficult to convict an officer, the designation of the charge he is facing could increase the likelihood that he would serve time.

“It’s always been very difficult to convict and officer, that is changing and the fact that they are charging this as a manslaughter conviction, rather than a first-degree murder or second-degree murder or open count of murder, it will be easier for the prosecution to convict such a person,” he explained.

If convicted, Reichel said it’s possible Lamantia could also serve an extended period of time, based on his use of his duty weapon.

“In California, if a manslaughter occurs and there is a firearm that was used, they can add 10 years on top of this so it could be a 10-year consecutive on top and that means is there is a chance this officer could serve somewhere from 13- 17 years in prison,” he said.

Lamantia entered a not guilty plea in court Thursday. Judge Jeffrey Mangar ordered him to remain in custody and his bail was set at $100,000. According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s office, Lamantia was booked in jail around 1:40 p.m. and released.

Lamantia’s attorney, Paul Goyette, believes he acted within the law.

“I believe very strongly that this was a perfectly justifiable use of force, he explained. “His actions were done in defense of that if he had not taken the assertive action that he took at that moment in time that there would’ve in fact been that loss of life that he was very concerned about,” Goyette said.

Goyette also plans to issue an appeal to fight Lamatia’s termination.

“He was doing his job, consistent with his training and unfortunately as a result he is now being prosecuted and terminated for it,” he said.

Lamatia is due back in court on June 17.

“I have met with the Seever family on a couple of occasions and continue to offer my full support as they begin to heal after their tragic loss,” said Modesto Mayor Sue Zwahlen. “We mourn alongside the Seever family, and now begin the process of healing our community.”

Trevor’s family says it’s not the first time Officer Lamantia has killed someone and they want him off the streets.

“We don’t want any other family to go through this,” Allison Seever said at a rally for Trevor in February. “Five families is already way too many for one officer. Most officers don’t even shoot their gun.”

Interim Modesto Police Chief Brandon Gillespie released a statement after the news of Lamantia’s firing.

“The death of Trevor Seever is a tragedy for his family, friends, and our community. The men and women of the Modesto Police Department work hard every day to build and maintain positive relationships. I understand Officer Lamantia’s actions have set us back. Our department is dedicated to serving the public and committed to rebuilding any trust we have lost.”

Velena Jones