Actor Ron Ely sues Santa Barbara sheriff's office over family deaths

Tarzan actor Ron Ely sues Santa Barbara sheriff’s office after they shot dead his son when the 30-year-old stabbed his mother to death

  • Cameron Ely, 30, killed his mom, Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, in October last year 
  • Ron, 81, is suing police and the city for wrongful death and unspecified damages
  • He says unarmed Cameron was surrendering when he was shot 22 times by cops
  • Valerie was left to die by deputies who failed to check if she was still alive and took 30 minutes to get medical help, according to the lawsuit 
  • The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department had said deputies fired at Cameron after he said he was armed and made motions like he was drawing a weapon
  • Now Ron, who played the lead role in the 1966 NBC series Tarzan, says audio from the night appears to contradict what police said about his son 

Tarzan actor Ron Ely is suing Santa Barbara sheriff’s office over the death of his son and wife at the family’s California home. 

Cameron Ely, 30, stabbed his mom, Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, multiple times, killing her in October last year, authorities say. No motive has been released. 

Now Ron, 81, is suing police and the city of Santa Barbara for wrongful death and unspecified damages, TMZ reports. 

He says unarmed Cameron was surrendering when he was shot 22 times by officers; the lawsuit argued Valerie was left to die by deputies who failed to check if she was still alive and took 30 minutes to get medical help.  

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department had said four deputies fired 24 rounds at Cameron after the 30-year-old told deputies he was armed and made motions like he was drawing a weapon. He was shot outside his father’s home in Hope Ranch, a suburb of luxury homes outside Santa Barbara.

Three of the deputies who fired on Cameron Ely have more than 12 years of experience apiece; the other deputy has two years of law enforcement experience. 

Ron, who played the lead role in the 1966 NBC series Tarzan, says audio from the night appears to contradict what police said about his son, The Santa Barbara Independent reports. 

Tarzan actor Ron Ely is suing Santa Barbara sheriff’s office over the death of his son and wife at the family’s California home. The couple are pictured 

Cameron Ely, 30, pictured, stabbed his mom, Valerie Lundeen Ely, 62, multiple times, killing her in October last year, authorities say

The civil claim, filed in July, states: ‘The reprehensible conduct of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department Deputies was egregious, entirely unreasonable, and, accordingly, unconstitutional.

‘Defendant Deputies did not know, and failed to check, if Decedent Valerie was alive when they arrived.

‘Suddenly, and without any warning or legal justification, multiple Defendant Deputies opened fire on Decedent Cameron, striking him a total of 22 times with bullets from several department issued weapons.

‘The shooting occurred less than 20 seconds after Defendant Deputies saw Decedent Cameron walk around the corner with his hands up, the universal act of surrender.’

It adds: ‘Decedent Cameron was unarmed, nonviolent, and acting calmly during the entirety of the short encounter. 

‘He did not make any aggressive movements or furtive gestures nor did he utter any threats which would have led a reasonable Sheriff’s deputy to believe that he posed a risk of death or serious bodily injury to anyone.’

The sheriff’s office and the city have not commented.  

Footage, which was obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com, shows the moment cops arrived at the actor’s Santa Barbara home and ordered Cameron to put his hands up. Seconds later, police are heard telling the Harvard-educated quarterback not to reach for anything before shots are fired.

Cameron, who had benefited from a Harvard education but was working as a security guard, had recently moved back hime, pictured, with his parents

Both Cameron and his mother were pronounced dead at the scene, with their bodies pictured being removed by the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office the following day.

Ely was not hurt during the altercation but was taken for an evaluation at a nearby hospital before being released the following day. 

Cameron, who had benefited from a Harvard education but was working as a security guard, had recently moved back in with his parents. 

He was the first to call police on the night of the killings, placing a 911 call at approximately 8pm.

In audio obtained by the Blast, the operator can be heard saying he had spoken to a young male who said his ‘father tried to attack the mother’.

The operator adds that when the authorities called back the caller sounded ‘out of breath, unintelligible and crying’.

In a subsequent call, Ely identified his wife’s killer as his son. Responding officers found Cameron hiding in the grounds and shot him dead at approximately 9.40pm. 

Ely was not hurt during the altercation but was taken for an evaluation at a nearby hospital before being released the following day

Footage, which was obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com, shows the moment cops arrived at the actor’s Santa Barbara home and ordered Cameron to put his hands up.

Seconds later, police are heard telling the Harvard-educated quarterback not to reach for anything before shots are fired.

A police officer can then be heard shouting ‘he’s still moving’ followed by repeated orders for the 30-year-old to show them his right hand. 

The dashcam video, which runs for five minutes in total, then shows more police cars arriving at the Elys’ luxury Hope Ranch property.

In the background, officers can be heard asking Cameron to move his right hand and repeatedly demanding: ‘Can you hear me?’.  

Valerie and Ron had been married for 35 years and had three children together, Kirsten, Kaitland and Cameron.             

Valerie and Ron had been married for 35 years and had three children together, Kirsten, Kaitland and Cameron

Ely featured in a number of TV appearances during the 1960s but found his break playing the lead role in the 1966 NBC series Tarzan

Ely featured in a number of TV appearances during the 1960s but found his break playing the lead role in the 1966 NBC series Tarzan.

He also played the title role in 1975 movie Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.

As well as a career studded with occasional parts on TV, Ely hosted the Miss America pageant between 1979 and 1981. He retired from acting in 2001 but did return for a part in a TV movie called Expecting Amish in 2014.

The famed actor said he finished with his on-screen career to spend time with his kids.       

At the time of her death, Lundeen and Ely were living in quiet retirement at their luxury home which boasts its own tennis court and swimming pool.     

Musclebound Tarzan who did his own stunts and won the hearts of baby-boomers 

Ron Ely, 81, played the title character on the NBC series Tarzan, which ran from 1966 to 1968.

The tall, musclebound actor was not quite as well-known as Johnny Weismuller, the Olympic swimmer who played Tarzan, the character created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, in movies in the 1930s and 1940s. 

But Ely formed the image of the shirtless, loincloth-wearing character remembered by many in the baby-boom generation.

Ely said in interviews that he did his own stunts on the show, working directly and precariously with the tigers, chimps and other wild animals that were Tarzan’s friends and servants.Ely retired from acting to focus on his family in 2001.

Ely retired from acting to focus on his family in 2001. He is pictured here in December 1987

Ely’s Tarzan didn’t speak in the monosyllabic grunts often associated with the character. He was instead an educated bachelor who had grown sick of civilization and had returned to African jungle where he was raised.

Ely also played the title character in the 1975 action film Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, but otherwise had mostly small roles in TV and films including the 1958 movie musical South Pacific.

He was host of the Miss America pageant in 1980 and 1981 and later married Valerie Ely, a former Miss Florida. The couple had three children. 

Ely retired from acting to focus on his family in 2001. But he returned briefly in 2014 in the TV movie Expecting Amish. 

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