SWAT Shooting Prompts Wrongful Death Suit

A federal lawsuit has been filed in the Middle District of Georgia by the family of a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by a Georgia SWAT team. Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers will be interested to see how this case turns out, especially after two other instances of police in this area shooting mentally ill men in recent years.

In September 2011, police were called because someone threw a brick through the window of a store, causing about $500 in damages. Someone thought that person was 51 year old Wayne Walter Peterson, so an officer from the Moultrie Police Department went to his house. Mr. Peterson lunged at the officer with a butcher knife and the locked the door to his house. He was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, of which a nephew of Mr. Peterson informed the police. Additional negotiators and a SWAT team arrived on the scene to try to deal with Mr. Peterson. The nephew offered to go to Mr. Peterson’s porch and talk him out peacefully, but the police refused. When officers entered Mr. Peterson’s house, he again charged at them with a butcher knife. Moultrie Police Cpl. Eric Fries shot five times, hitting Mr. Peterson twice and killing him.

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On July 31, 2013, Mr. Peterson’s sister, Carolyn Hall, filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Peterson’s family against the Moultrie Police Department, Police Chief Frank Lang, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Al Whittington, three police officers and an investigator. The lawsuit alleges that the officer’s knew about Mr. Peterson’s mental illness, that they created a stressful situation that confused Mr. Peterson, and that the officers’ forced entry into the house was unnecessary and lead to Mr. Peterson’s death. The family also alleges that the police were not trained in dealing with a schizophrenic suspect and that their refusal to allow the nephew or other family member to assist contributed to the fatal situation. The police also refused to allow a medically trained professional deal with Mr. Peterson to calm him and explain that he would not be harmed. The lawsuit also states that in 1996 and in 2006 the Moultrie police shot and killed two other mentally ill men, but still never instituted any training programs or better procedures to stop another incident like this from happening. The lawsuit does not state the amount of monetary compensation Mr. Peterson’s family is asking for.

But after Mr. Peterson’s death, mental health issues became a topic of discussion in the Moultrie community, so hopefully the necessary changes will be made to stop unnecessary death’s like Mr. Peterson’s in the future.

Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers

If a family member has died due to the negligence of another, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter may be able to help get the compensation needed and deserved. Contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

Photo Credit: [martin] via Compfight cc

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