Motorist who was shot during altercation with Lawrence police officer files lawsuit alleging excessive force

photo by: Lawrence Police Departmen

This frame from a Lawrence Police Department dash camera video shows Officer Brindley Blood, right, pulling her gun as motorist Akira Lewis, left on top, attacks Officer Ian McCann, left on bottom, May 29, 2018, near Sixth and Massachusetts streets in downtown Lawrence.

A motorist who was shot by police after a traffic stop turned violent has filed a lawsuit claiming that police used excessive force against him and that the city failed to properly train its officers.

Akira S. Lewis filed the lawsuit in Douglas County District Court against the City of Lawrence, the Lawrence Police Department, the police chief and the two officers involved in the traffic stop. The lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges that the officer who shot Lewis used excessive force and that both officers involved in the stop battered him and inflicted emotional distress through negligence, among other claims.

The incident occurred on May 29, 2018, in the 100 block of West Sixth Street, at the north end of downtown, after Officer Ian McCann pulled Lewis over for a seat-belt violation as part of a seat-belt campaign. In police dashcam video, Lewis, who is black, contends he was racially profiled, refuses to provide McCann his license and registration and demands that a supervisor be called. McCann discusses the situation with Lewis and when Lewis does not comply McCann attempts to physically remove him from the car; Lewis subsequently strikes and body slams McCann. Another officer, Brindley Blood, shoots Lewis within seconds after the physical altercation begins. Blood told investigators later that she meant to use her Taser, not her gun.

Dash cam video of Lawrence police shooting after traffic stop

Regarding the claim of excessive force against Blood, the lawsuit alleges that Blood’s actions and use of force were malicious and/or involved reckless, callous and deliberate indifference to Lewis’ rights. The lawsuit states that the force used constituted deadly force and caused Lewis serious bodily injury. As a result of Blood’s actions, the lawsuit states that Lewis has suffered physical and emotional injuries, medical expenses and other damages and losses. The lawsuit also alleges that Blood, the city and the police department acted negligently.

More specifically, the lawsuit states that Lewis asked to speak to a supervisor because he believed the stop was racially motivated and that McCann and Blood refused his requests. After stating that Lewis was “going to jail,” McCann attempted to forcibly remove Lewis from the vehicle. Blood entered the car through the passenger side and also attempted to force Lewis out of the vehicle by pushing him and using a “pressure point maneuver.” The lawsuit alleges that both McCann and Blood battered Lewis.

Once the physical altercation between McCann and Lewis began, Blood immediately drew her firearm and discharged one round into Lewis’ back, according to the lawsuit. Lewis was taken to Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka and the bullet had to be surgically removed and required a small bowel resection, or the removal of part of Lewis’ small intestine.

The lawsuit states that Lewis has incurred past and future medical damages, past and future lost wages and has suffered and continues to suffer from emotional distress relative to being shot by Blood.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Akira S. Lewis, of Lawrence, testifies Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Douglas County District Court during a preliminary hearing for a Lawrence police officer charged with aggravated battery for shooting Lewis as he attacked another officer who was trying to arrest him.

The police department conducts its own training academy for officers, and the lawsuit also alleges that the city, police department and Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. failed to properly train and supervise officers. The lawsuit states that officers, specifically Blood, were improperly trained on use of force, leading to Lewis’ injuries. The lawsuit goes on to state that the city and other defendants sanctioned those policies or practices because they failed to investigate and discipline any of the officers involved in the incident.

Regarding the claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress, the lawsuit alleges that the actions of McCann and Blood caused Lewis great mental, nervous and emotional pain and suffering. It also takes issue with Lewis’ treatment after being shot.

The lawsuit states that police did not notify Lewis’ wife of the incident even though he provided McCann her phone number and asked that she be contacted. It further states that police admitted him to the hospital under an alias, stood guard at his hospital room, and did not allow Lewis to have contact with his family for several days. When Lewis’ wife learned of his whereabouts through a nurse, the lawsuit claims she was denied information about his condition and not allowed to see him because he was “in custody.”

The lawsuit states that Lewis has incurred damages in excess of $100,000 and requests that those damages be provided to Lewis along with interest, legal costs and other relief the court may deem just and equitable. The lawsuit requests a trial by jury on all claims.

Danielle Davey, an attorney representing Lewis, did not immediately return a phone call from the Journal-World on Monday afternoon. City Attorney Toni Wheeler said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit and she could not comment at this time.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Brindley D. Blood appears in Douglas County District Court on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. She appeared with her attorneys Tom Bath, left, and Michael Riling.

Blood was charged in relation to the incident, but Judge Peggy Kittel dismissed those charges in March, as the Journal-World previously reported. Prosecutors had alleged that Blood acted recklessly when she shot Lewis despite “extensive” police training. Kittel disagreed, saying Blood made a mistake and may have been negligent but evidence at the preliminary hearing did not support the felony of reckless aggravated battery.

As seen in the video, Blood yelled “Taser” before firing and later told investigators that she meant to use her Taser but mistakenly drew her gun. Blood, who was a rookie officer at the time of the incident, resigned from the police department in late January.

Lewis was also charged in relation to the incident. In August, Lewis pleaded no contest in Douglas County District Court to battery against a law enforcement officer. Lewis was sentenced to 12 months of probation, required to take anger management classes, and must pay court costs and other fees, among other conditions.

Previous coverage

Aug. 22, 2019 — Motorist who was shot after attacking Lawrence police officer receives probation

March 27 — Judge dismisses case against Lawrence police officer who shot man, says evidence does not show she acted recklessly

March 25 — Lawrence police release video of officer shooting man after traffic stop

March 20, 2019 — Video shows Lawrence police officer shooting man attacking fellow cop; judge now weighing whether criminal charges warranted

Nov. 27, 2018 — Taser, firearms training expected to be raised in case of shooting by Lawrence police officer

Nov. 14 — Lawrence police officer who shot man asks judge to dismiss criminal charge

Sept. 27 — Lawrence police officer who shot motorist with gun instead of Taser faces judge

Sept. 26 — Man shot by Lawrence police makes first court appearance on own charges from incident

Sept. 6 — Affidavit: Rookie Lawrence police officer said she meant to tase man at traffic stop but shot him instead

Aug. 23 — Lawrence police officer charged in shooting of black motorist following traffic stop

June 11 — Attorney: Man shot by Lawrence police is home from hospital

June 8 — DA’s office now reviewing Lawrence police shooting case; details of incident remain on lockdown

June 6 — Following police shooting, some city leaders call for more police training, data regarding Lawrence traffic stops

May 31 — Driver shot by police is a Lawrence resident and father of 6, still recovering in hospital

May 30 — Investigators: Driver shot by Lawrence police was initially stopped for seat-belt violation, altercation ensued

May 29, 2018 — Lawrence police officer shoots person following traffic stop at busy downtown intersection; person in stable condition


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