Cops Shot Girl Asking for Help, Parents Claim

     MARSHALL, Texas (CN) – Texas police shot a mentally ill teenager to death after she went to their station and asked for help, her parents claim in Federal Court.
     The parents of Kristiana Joy Coignard sued the city of Longview, its police chief Don Dingler and police officers Glenn Derr, Grace Bagley and Gene Duffie on July 7 in Federal Court.
     Longview is two hours east of Dallas.
     The Coignards’ attorney said they had “no other option but to file a lawsuit” after a Gregg County grand jury on June 25 declined to indict the officers who shot their daughter.
     Though the family’s lawsuit demands $10 million damages it’s not about the money, attorney Tim Maloney said.
     “They could give a damn about the money. That’s never been their motivation. It’s strictly the idea of accountability and the idea that they would not be held accountable for their actions,” Maloney said in a phone interview.
     Kristiana Coignard was bipolar and struggled with depression, her parents say in the lawsuit.
     “She was also vibrant, smart, compassionate and a person who fought for causes she believed in,” the complaint states. “Her struggles with mental illness are well documented. During her short life, Kristiana had been hospitalized. Kristiana knew when she needed help and would request it.”
     Looking to establish her independence, the 17-year-old Coignard had recently moved from her parents’ home in San Antonio to Longview to live with her grandparents.
     But on the night of Jan. 22 she packed her backpack and went to the Longview Police Station, according to the complaint.
     “Her whereabouts prior to her entry into the station are somewhat unknown, but earlier in the evening, she had texted her mother and told her that she loved her,” the lawsuit states.
     The lawsuit gives a minute-by-minute account of the events leading to Coignard’s death, citing a surveillance tape of the police headquarters lobby. The footage is on YouTube.
     By cross-referencing the lawsuit’s account with the YouTube video you can identify the officers who made contact with Coignard.
     Coignard entered the lobby and after standing alone for a few minutes she “picked up the telephone and asked for help from the Longview Police Department,” the complaint states.
     The video shows defendant officer Glenn Derr walk into the lobby and approach Coignard, who lifts her hand up and shows the palm to him.
     Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough released a statement about the incident following the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers.
     “As (Derr) walked up to her, Coignard raised her left hand which had the words ‘I have a gun’ written on her palm. Derr asked where the gun was located. Coignard responded by moving her left hand up towards the inside front of her jacket. As Derr reached for Coignard’s arm, she backed away,” according to Dorrough’s statement.
     The black-and-white YouTube footage shows Coignard back away from Derr, who tries to hold down her arm. Coignard falls backwards over some chairs and kicks at Derr as he struggles with her.
     It is unclear from the footage what Derr is holding, but the lawsuit says “it appeared Derr was using a Taser on the back of her neck.”
     The footage shows Coignard lying motionless for a moment before she again struggles against Derr, who throws her face-down on the ground. After a brief struggle Derr backs away from the prone – and again motionless – Coignard while pointing his gun at her.
     Another male officer then enters the lobby and Coignard gets on her feet as Derr continues to point his gun at her, according to the lawsuit and video.
     A third officer, identified in the lawsuit as Grace Bagley, enters the lobby holding a gun in her right hand.
     Seconds later Coignard runs towards Derr, who backpedals and fires his gun point-blank at her. A cloud of smoke drifts up from Derr’s gun and Coignard instantly drops. Bagley is also seen firing at Coignard.
     “Kristiana was struck four times and fell to the floor,” her parents say in the lawsuit.
     As more police streamed into the lobby, the Coignards say: “No one attempted to see if Kristiana was alive or made any sort of check on her vital signs. Both officers defendant Derr and defendant Bagley sat down.”
     The YouTube video corroborates those statements. It shows emergency medical workers come and wheel Coignard out of the lobby on a stretcher 10 minutes after she was shot, as a policeman administers CPR, pushing down over and over on her chest.
     The Coignards say they don’t understand why Derr couldn’t subdue their daughter.
     “The tragedy of this case is that it was entirely preventable,” the complaint states. “Kristiana Joy Coignard was a 17-year-old girl who was troubled and needed help from authorities.
     “The defendants are reporting that Kristiana lunged at defendant Derr with a knife and that she had written on her hand ‘I have a gun.’ Even assuming these facts are true, it is incomprehensible why a police officer, supposedly trained by the Longview Police Department, was unable to restrain a motionless 17-year-old girl.”
     The Coignards seek damages for excessive force, negligence and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming the officers had a duty to get their daughter to a mental-health facility.
     They also seek damages from the city and police chief for not properly training the officers.
     Longview public information officer Shawn Hara said he doesn’t believe the city has been served with the lawsuit. “We will review it once we have it and we’ll allow the legal process to play out,” he said.
     All officers involved are on active duty, Longview’s ABC affiliate KLTV reported.

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