Cop Who Killed Unarmed Grandpa Was Trigger-Happy, Family Claims
PHOENIX (CN) - An unarmed man carrying his infant grandson was shot in the head by a cop with a known "propensity for killing civilians," his family says in federal court.
Scottsdale police had allegedly arrived at the home of John Loxas Jr. on Feb. 14, 2012, after the 50-year-old had argued with a neighbor.
Loxas was holding his 7-month-old grandson in his arms, when Officer James Peters shot the man in the forehead, "without any warning or legal justification," according to the complaint.
"Mr. Loxas had no weapon in his hand or on his person; he was standing in the doorway of his house, holding his infant grandson, and turning away from the officers to go further inside his home when he was shot," the complaint states.
Loxas died instantly, dropping the baby to the floor, his father and daughter claim.
Before the shooting, Loxas "had not threatened to harm his grandson in any manner," according to the complaint.
Peters was allegedly the only officer on the scene to fire a weapon at Loxas.
"This was the seventh shooting by Officer Peters in the past ten years, resulting in the unheard of number of six deaths," according to the complaint. "All the past shootings were found justified by defendant Police Chief Alan Rodbell and the city of Scottsdale, and no discipline was imposed nor decision made to remove Peters from 'shooter' assignments despite defendants awareness of his propensity for shooting civilians. Thus, defendant Peters felt justified in taking deadly action and was not deterred from doing so in this case despite the many alternatives presented. Following this shooting, defendants Rodbell and Scottsdale found that Peters was disabled and entitled to retire with pay; this action was taken too late for John Loxas."
Four of the seven shooting deaths for which Peters is responsible involved unarmed civilians, according to the complaint.
One allegedly resulted in a lawsuit against Scottsdale, which the city subsequently settled, and another allegedly resulted in Peters receiving the Medal of Honor.
In the three months leading up to the Loxas shooting, two citizens had filed discrimination complaints against Peters, and another two had filed unprofessional conduct complaints against him, the family claims.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which represents the Loxas family, says Peters evaded discipline on each count, even though the "eventuality of unconstitutional violation and improper use of a weapon was or should have been obvious to both defendant Rodbell and to defendant Scottsdale."
"What we have here is the total absence of meaningful review by the Scottsdale Department and City of Scottsdale even for deadly shootings done without warning and involving unarmed civilians," ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Daniel Pochoda said in a statement. "The clear message to Scottsdale officers, including Peters, has been: there will be no consequences, no loss of gun privileges, no matter how questionable or illegal the nature of the shooting."
Rodbell, the police chief, failed to "act concerning the need to have effective internal investigatory processes and results that represent civilian as well as police interests, and in simply accepting the findings of 'justified shooting,'" according to the complaint.
Because of the department's failures, Peters "felt justified in taking deadly action and was not deterred from doing so in this case despite the many alternatives presented."
Alexandria Loxas and John Loxas Sr., as the daughter and father of the victim, seek punitive damages for wrongful death, excessive force, unlawful search and other claims.
Scottsdale, Peters, Rodbell and Detective Brian McWilliams are named as defendants.