Family of Schizophrenic Shot by Police Files Wrongful Death Suit
When you call the police for help, you should be able to trust them to render assistance without causing further tragedy. Unfortunately, the improper use of excessive force sometimes results in wrongful death, even in cases where the police were called to help. If you or someone you know was victimized by a police officer, you should know your options.
Failed Attempts to Demand Independent Investigation
In the early hours of the morning one day in the middle of February this year, a Miami Gardens woman called police for help dealing with her schizophrenic and bipolar son. The family hoped to detain the man under Florida’s Baker Act, which permits involuntary examination of individuals with mental illnesses who are likely to cause serious bodily harm to themselves or others. Two Florida police officers arrived and tased the 25-year-old, who was still brandishing a metal broomstick handle. When the tasers had no effect, the officers chased the man down a hallway and eventually fired five shots at the man. The schizophrenic man died from a bullet to the chest, leaving his daughter without a father. The officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Their police chief told journalists that the two officers were doing “the best they could.” However, after that police chief was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and fired, investigation into the case stalled. The man’s mother hired wrongful death attorneys to look into the matter, but the police department failed to provide information on the case, such as a video of the incident. The man’s family and their attorneys formally requested an independent investigation into the matter, and dozens of concerned citizens protested the police department demanding the video of the incident. The mayor agreed that the video should be made public, but it has not yet been released.
Seeking Justice through the Courts
When a police department refuses to cooperate in an investigation, sometimes the only recourse is to file a lawsuit. The deceased man’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking to recover $20 million in damages. The money would pay for medical and funeral expenses, as well as the more human losses: loss of support, loss of his services, and the mental pain and suffering caused by the untimely death. The lawsuit alleges that the officers applied excessive force, despite the fact that the department was informed that the man was bipolar and schizophrenic. In particular, the lawsuit claims that the former police chief either knew, or should have known, of the officers’ violation of department policy and procedures, and failed to prevent the behavior.
Don’t wait for a police department’s internal investigation to get you the justice you deserve. If you or a loved one has been a victim of excessive force, or other violation of police department procedures, you should realize that sometimes, not even coordinated protests and requests from the mayor are enough to convince a government agency to release important evidence like the video of the alleged excessive force. Sometimes, filing a wrongful death lawsuit is the only way to successfully seek the justice you deserve. Call Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorney Scott Newmark to speak to someone who can help you get results.