Police Shoot Mother to Death in Her Bed
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) - After awakening a naked woman in her bed, Kansas police shot her to death when she complied with their order to show them where she kept her gun, her daughter claims in court.
Michele Choate sued Gardner, Kan., and its police Officers Robert Huff, Justin Mohney and Jeff Breneman for the death of her mother, Deanne Choate, in Federal Court.
Gardner, pop. 20,000, is 30 miles southwest of Kansas City.
Gardner police got a 911 call on March 26, 2015 that Deanne Choate, 54, had been drinking alcohol, was suicidal and had a gun. When police arrived they immediately handcuffed and arrested Choate's boyfriend and removed him from the home, then found Deanne Choate sleeping naked in her bed, her daughter says in the Feb. 25 complaint.
After waking her up, officers questioned her for eight minutes, repeatedly asking, "Where is the gun?"
"Deanne was obviously not carrying or concealing on her person any type of weapon," her daughter says.
"During this time, officers came and went from the room. They looked under the sheets of the bed." They stayed in the room "with the naked, 115-pound woman" and finally gave her a sweatshirt to wear, according to the complaint.
After repeatedly demanding, "Where is the gun?" and "We know you have a gun," Deanne finally "complied with officers' request and produced a handgun, stating, 'Oh, here it is.'"
Then they shot her to death.
"Deanne was not threatening in any way as she complied with officers' instructions in providing a handgun located between the mattress and headboard of the bed," her daughter says. "The gun would have easily been located by officers if they had searched and 'cleared' the room as reported."
The officers then were ordered "to turn off their video and audio recording devices to further protect officers and prevent recording of incriminating evidence," though before they killed her, Deanne had been "polite and compliant," her daughter says.
"No reasonable officer would have followed the procedures of [the defendant] officers, including shooting and killing Deanne," she adds.
After they shot her, "officers carried the dying, naked Deanne from her bed to the front door with one officer on each arm and one officer holding her legs," her daughter says.
Gardner discourages its police from using de-escalation tactics with suspects, preferring a "shoot-first-ask-questions-later" policy, Michele Choate says.
"When officers made the decision to shoot Deanne, officers had been trained and supervised by the city and understood the city's custom and practice to use deadly force regardless if there is an actual threat," according to the complaint.
Then the city erected a "veil of secrecy surrounding the shooting," according to the complaint. "The city's efforts were to cast doubt on the investigation into the shootings because there is no means of verifying or refuting findings that a use of force was supposedly reasonable."
Gardner officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Michele Choate seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, municipal liability and failure to train and supervise.
She is represented by Michael Hughes with McCormick, Gordon Bloskey & Poirier, of Overland Park.