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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Calls Phoenix Cop a Menace

PHOENIX (CN) - A Phoenix police officer shot a man death while three other officers restrained him, and it was the officer's second in-custody killing in a year, the man's family claims in court.

Cleo Daily, mother of the late Zachariah Pithan, and his father, Tracy Pithan, sued Phoenix, its police Officers Clinton Brookins, Andrew Williams, Chris Joja and Emanuel Codreanu, former Police Chief Jack Harris and current Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia, in Federal Court.

According to the complaint, on April 20, 2013, Pithan - who had been diagnosed with a mental illness - told the four police officers who were outside his apartment to leave him alone. When Pithan extended an arm past the door frame, Williams allegedly grabbed it, unnecessarily starting a physical altercation, and entered the apartment with the other officers.

Once in the apartment, the four officers held down Pithan, but at no time did they use any nonlethal force - such as pepper spray, a baton, or a Taser - on him, his parents say in the complaint.

Brookins, who was close to Pithan's chest, then "unjustifiably" shot Pithan twice in the chest at point-blank range, killing him.

The parents say it was the second in-custody killing by Brookins in a year.

The first death, in April 2012, was evaluated by Garcia, Harris, and the city, but "no discipline was imposed nor was a decision made to reprimand defendant Brookins for excessive use of force," the lawsuit states.

Instead, Brookins was given a commendation by Garcia, allowing "a person with this demonstrated record of unjustified lethal force to maintain a weapon, but [also] to be used in the role of a shooter in operations against civilians," according to the complaint.

During that incident, Brookins placed a citizen in handcuffs and a choke hold until he died, the complaint states.

Pithan's parents claim that before 2012, Brookins failed "a psychological exam in connection with his application to become a police officer at another Police Department in Arizona. Despite this knowledge, the City of Phoenix hired and retained Officer Brookins as an employee."

There were also a number of investigations by Phoenix Police into Brookins' conduct, the lawsuit claims, including into an excessive use of force claim on Sept. 23, 2012 where Brookins "allegedly forcibly grabbed an in-custody female by the arm and dragged her through a puddle of urine located on the floor of a holding cell."

Pithan's family seeks compensatory and punitive damages for excessive force and supervisory liability.

They are represented by John Checkett and Paul Sheston of the Checkett Law Firm in Scottsdale.

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