Attorneys for retired Pittsburg police detective Chunliam Saechao are arguing that he suffered severe post-traumatic stress in retirement and didn't receive adequate support from his former employer.
The standoff unfolded over two days starting on the evening of December 7. Former Marine and police detective Chunliam Saechao, 40, had been in an apparent domestic dispute with his wife, and had allegedly locked her out of their Pleasant Hill home. When she tried to get in through the front door, Saechao allegedly shot her through the door, and she suffered a minor injury from the shooting.
Pleasant Hill Police and SWAT team members responded, and Saechao held them at bay for about 36 hours, communicating mostly over X and sending out messages that seemed suicidal. He also shot at officers, with bullets striking one law enforcement vehicle.
In one December 8 message, Saecho wrote, "My mother said I already did [too] much for people when I was a marine and a detective but after I got ptsd from that situation I became extremely depressed and in [the pit] of hell and suffered for so long searching for the truth and the light it was a struggle of life and death in my soul."
The standoff concluded peacefully on the morning of December 9, and Saechao was taken into custody.
Attorneys Tyler Smith and Curtis Briggs said last month that they were "compelled" to take Saechao's case, and as KTVU reports, they were by his side Thursday as he entered not-guilty pleas to the charges against him.
It appears Smith and Briggs plan to argue that Saecho's PTSD, which he had as a result of his law enforcement work and which led to his early retirement at age 40, was the central factor in the shooting and standoff.
"We want cities to change the way they handle people who retire from first responder positions for mental health reasons," Briggs said outside the courtroom Thursday, per KTVU. "These people served the community, they protected us, we need to protect them in return."
The attorneys also apparently plan to argue that the shooting was accidental.
"He did not shoot his wife, we will prove this," Smith said, per KRON4. "The defense claims Saechao was a man in crisis, and authorities made things worse with a standoff spanning nearly two days."
Briggs added, "I have many questions about how it went down, it is almost unheard of."
Saecho's mother also spoke in the courtroom and spoke to reporters afterwards, thanking police for saving her son's life.
"You are doing what my son was doing before his retirement," Muey Haw Sae Lee said, per KTVU. "Protecting good people every day."
KRON4 has video of the press conference.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office plans to file a motion for a protective order to keep Saecho from contacting his wife, however Briggs and Smith say they will fight this. Per KTVU, the attorney say that Saecho and his wife have had perfectly peaceful communications since the incident, and that he "needs all the support he can get."