Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lawsuit planned in Little Rock police shooting

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Mike Laux, a Chicago lawyer, says he'll file a promised civil rights lawsuit over the fatal shooting Dec. 9 of Eugene Ellison by off-duty Little Rock police working as security guards at his apartment complex. He called the incident avoidable and a reflection of a "nationwide epidemic of police misconduct." He'll hold a news conference Monday at the Capital Hotel.

Ellison, 67, was shot while struggling with officers Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis. Prosecutor Larry Jegley said the officers were justified in the shooting because other efforts to subdue him had been unsuccessful. The officers said they had gone into the apartment because the door was open and the apartment appeared in disarray. They said Ellison then attacked them. He'd had mental and police problems in years past, but had lived uneventfully in the Big Country Chateau Apartments on Col. Glenn for more than a dozen years.

The Ellison family, which included a current and former Little Rock officer, has raised questions about the impartiality of the police investigation. Jegley's decision was based on the police's work. The family already has complained to the FBI that officers shouldn't have entered the apartment.

Laux's announcement said:

On the evening of December 9, 2010, 67-year-old Eugene Ellison, a Vietnam veteran, was shot and killed in his home by Little Rock police officers Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis. On that date, Officers Lesher and McCrillis worked as off-duty security guards at the Big Country Chateau apartment complex and entered Ellison’s apartment without a warrant. The Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) performed a subsequent internal investigation, and LRPD investigators exonerated both officers of any wrongdoing.

On October 17, 2011, the family of Eugene Ellison will file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Little Rock, LRPD Chief Stuart Thomas, Lesher and McCrillis and the Big Country Chateau apartment complex.

The complaint will allege that Lesher and McCrillis entered Ellison’s home without a legal basis to do so. Physical contact was initiated by the officers, and a struggle ensued. After the struggle was over and after two (2) LRPD officers arrived as back-up, Lesher shot and killed Ellison, without any legal basis to do so. Both the warrantless entry into Ellison’s home and his killing violated his constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and to be free of excessive force. The complaint will also allege that there was, at LRPD, a widespread “custom” of ignoring excessive force complaints lodged against its officers. This custom created a culture in which LRPD officers believed there were no penalties for committing acts of excessive force against Little Rock citizens or violating their constitutional rights in other ways. This custom within the LRPD led to the death of Ellison.

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