Guard’s Widow Says U.S. Kept Threat Quiet

MANHATTAN (CN) – Marking this Valentine’s Day a widow, the mother of three whose security guard husband was gunned down by a disgruntled former employee of the U.S. Labor Department has brought a $10 million federal complaint against the United States.

Kevin Downing shot and killed Idrissa Camara on Aug. 21, 2015, at the entrance of 201 Varick St. in Lower Manhattan where Camara was working overtime at the security desk.

On the eighth floor of the building, extra security was posted outside the offices of the Labor Department to guard federal employees from Downing because of specific threats he had made.

Downing never made there it there, however, taking his own life in the elevator bank.

Ayana Simmons takes aim at the government in her Feb. 13 lawsuit, saying the Labor Department knew Downing was mentally unstable but never shared its concerns with lobby security.

“Neither USDOL nor GSA ever mentioned Kevin Downing to Mr. Camara, or to any other security guard posted at a ground floor checkpoint,” the complaint states, using the abbreviations for U.S. Department of Labor and General Services Administration. “They never gave him or any other security guard on that post a photo or a description of Mr. Downing. They did not even instruct Mr. Camara’s security firm, FJC Security Services Inc. to warn him or the other security guards.  Because these agencies recklessly and callously disregarded Mr. Camara’s life and safety, he was unknowning and defenseless when Mr. Downing walked into 201 Varick Street that day with a gun – and he died as a result.”

Simmons notes that her 53-year-old husband hailed from the Ivory Coast. They met in 1993, two years after he immigrated to the United States. The couple’s youngest was just two when Camara died.

“This case seeks compensation for things that will never be fully compensable,” the complaint states. “A cold pillow on one side of the bed. A voice missing from the sidelines of a boy’s basketball game. A daughter’s cry for her daddy when other fathers pick her classmates up from pre-school. Ayana Simmons has lost her husband. Her three children, Aisha, Moussa, and Djeneba, have lost their father. Nothing can change that fact or take away their pain.

“But that does not mean that there cannot be justice,” the complaint continues. “Ms. Simmons brings this action to hold accountable the government agencies that directly caused her husband’s  death by callously and recklessly disregarding known and obvious risks to his safety. With utter indifference to his life and safety, these agencies exposed him to a clear, grave, and known danger without so much as a warning. And when that danger showed up, Idriss Camara was helpless.”

The Department of Labor is one of several federal agencies that has offices at 201 Varick St. Simmons says her husband began working in security after the attacks on 9/11, wanting “to help protect the people of New York.”

On the day of his death, according to the complaint, Camara had been scheduled to leave work at 4 p.m. but agreed to stay late so that a co-worker could take time off.

Downing, whom the USDOL had fired in 1999, entered the building armed at about 5.

Simmons notes that Downing contested his firing for years, even after the Federal Circuit affirmed the termination in 2006. Though Downing’s threats are what led the government to request extra FJC Security on the eighth floor, those concerns allegedly never made it to lobby security.

Simmons seeks $10 million in damages for wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering, and negligence. She is represented by Alanna Small of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff and Abady.

“Mr. Camara’s death was entirely preventable, but USDOL and GSA did nothing to prevent it,” the 11-page complaint states. “They are responsible for his death, and now they must be accountable to the wife and children he left behind for the devastating loss caused by their actions.”

Representatives from the Department of Labor and General Services Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan.