Woman files $10 million lawsuit against Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: News

Woman files $10 million lawsuit against Gilbert

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Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 7:49 pm | Updated: 8:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Gilbert officials thought they'd experienced the last of Sandra Landeen. But the Gilbert woman isn't satisfied after filing a $10 million lawsuit last month in Maricopa County Superior Court and blasting police for months in town meetings for failing to investigate her son's 2006 death.

"My son died in vain," Landeen said Wednesday. "I won't accept the loss of my son."

Landeen filed the lawsuit June 13, but she hasn't yet hired a lawyer.

It's been more than a year since officials last heard from Landeen.

She was a familiar face to the Town Council. After her son's death, Landeen attended nearly every meeting for six months, holding photos of her son.

At times she would yell, make threats and use obscene language, prompting officials to seek a restraining order against her, records show.

Landeen's removal from council meetings is the basis of her lawsuit, court records show.

She is suing over alleged violations of her First Amendment rights. Landeen is also suing police for coming to her home in June 2006, putting her in handcuffs and admitting her into a mental health institution for 24 hours without her consent.

"The lawsuit is definitely a surprise," said Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, who once visited Landeen's son's grave and prayed with her. "My heart goes out to her, but I hoped that this could have been behind her."

Landeen's son, Michael, disappeared on May 10, 2006. And the 27-year-old was found dead three days later in Mesa, in the passenger seat of his father's car.

The door was unlocked with keys in the ignition, and no identification was in his pockets.

Mesa police cleared the case and never considered it a homicide. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office also declared his death an accident, caused by an overdose of cocaine and "chronic drug abuse."

But Landeen believes her son was a victim of the Mexican Mafia.

She called several Gilbert police officials dozens of times during the weeks after her son died to urge them to take more action.

In those calls, Landeen said she bought a gun and wanted to harm those responsible for her son's death, police wrote in a medical form.

Those threats alarmed police, and other officials thought she may try to hurt herself or others. So on June 28, 2006, police filed for an emergency mental heath evaluation and admitted her into a Phoenix medical facility.

"I've never been so humiliated," Landeen said. "They came into my house, pulled me out and dragged me to a nuthouse."

The medical facility released her the next day, saying she was "not an acute risk of danger to self or others," and that her behavior was her "having an extremely difficult time dealing with the loss of her son."

Gilbert police declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

Landeen continued to attend council meetings through October 2006.

At times she was calm, council members said. But she frequently had outbursts, including one time when she stormed from the podium up to the council.

Worried about their safety and others at the meeting, officials filed for the restraining order in November, records show.

"We felt bad for her," Councilman Dave Crozier said. "But we had to do what was appropriate. We couldn't just let her rant and rave, using obscene language and making derogatory comments."

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