The manslaughter preliminary hearing for Joseph Lamantia was postponed Monday because the former officer broke his foot while visiting family in Montana over the Thanksgiving holiday and must undergo surgery.
The announcement was made in court on what would have been the third day of the preliminary hearing and likely the beginning of evidence presented by the defense. Lamantia’s attorney Roger Wilson said he plans to call an expert witness and possibly four other witnesses.
The hearing was continued to Jan. 19 and could last two more days. Judge Carrie Stephens ordered the attorneys to file written briefs instead of giving oral arguments at the conclusion of the hearing. She will then schedule a date to make her decision whether there is enough evidence for Lamantia to stand trial on the charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Lamantia fatally shot Trevor Seever on Dec. 29, 2020, on the grounds of the Church of the Brethren on Woodland Avenue in west Modesto. He was fired and charged a few months later.
Lamantia was the first officer to arrive at the scene following a 911 call by Seever’s sister, who told a dispatcher her brother had bought a gun the night before and told his mother he was coming over to the house to “and just to watch what happens to us.”
Seever was unarmed and running away when Lamantia fired at him within seconds of arriving at the scene. Lamantia estimated Seever was 60 yards away when he first fired, according to testimony from Modesto police Sgt. James Reeves, the Internal Affairs investigator who interviewed Lamantia.
Reeves said Lamantia told him he thought he was being set up to be ambushed. While Lamantia never saw Seever with a gun, he said he always assumed he had one, based on what family reported.
He was also aware of an “officer safety bulletin” that described posts on Seever’s Instagram account saying, “A good cop is a dead cop” and “All I want for Christmas is another dead MPD Officer.”
Lamantia told Reeves he thought Seever was either running to get to and harm his family or to get to a nearby grouping of redwood trees to obtain a different position of advantage.
Seever dropped to the ground after the first four shots were fired. Lamantia fired three more rounds after yelling at Seever to show his hands. Seever had both hands up briefly but was shot after his right hand dropped. Lamantia told Reeves he thought Seever was still trying to retrieve a firearm.
Seever was shot three times: once in his back, another in his chest and the third in his abdomen.
Lamantia, 37, was involved in five officer-involved shootings in his dozen years as a Modesto officer. Four were fatal. Prosecutors determined Lamantia and other officers’ actions were justified in the three other fatal shootings.