DETROIT (CN) – A family claims in Federal Court that DynCorp International covered up the shooting of their son, who allegedly was shot to death by a drunken co-worker in Iraq.
The family of the late Justin Pope sued DynCorp and 12 of its employees, including the alleged shooter, Kyle Palmer.
The family claims Palmer was drunk when he shot and killed Justin Pope in front of at least 11 other DynCorp employees on March 4, 2009. They say in the complaint that “Defendant Palmer pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case of United States v. Kyle Palmer … and on March 29, 2010, was sentenced to, among other things, three (3) years in prison for the crime.”
The men worked as security specialists for DynCorp in Kirkuk, Iraq, assigned to protect American diplomats and dignitaries. DynCorp is a private military contractor based in Falls Church, Va.
Pope, a Detroit native who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was 25 at the time of his death.
Pope’s family claims DynCorp and the alleged witnesses conjured up a story to cover up the facts of his death.
The complaint states: “Defendant Palmer in his drunkenness, pulled out a gun, pointed it at Justin’s mouth, pulled the trigger, and shot Justin to death.
“Within 24 hours, defendants commenced a series of events as part of a conspiracy amongst and between themselves as well as, at some point, agents of the United States government, to deceive and mislead the public – and Justin’s family, plaintiffs herein, in particular – with regard to the facts and circumstances of Justin’s death, withholding the truth from them.
“Among the falsehoods that Defendants affirmatively told plaintiffs and/or communicated to the public, at various times from March 4, 2009 to the present and continuing, were the following:
“a. That Justin was alone when he was killed;
“b. That Justin shot himself;
“c. That Justin was intoxicated, in violation of DynCorp policy;
“d. That Justin was shot by his own firearm;
“e. That Justin was shot because he and Palmer were pointing their guns at one another;
“f. That Justin, while intoxicated, pointed his gun at Palmer’s head;
“g. That Justin’s death was exclusively his fault; and
“h. Other falsehoods.
“Among the facts that defendants deliberately concealed from plaintiffs were the following:
“a. That defendant Palmer shot and killed Justin;
“b. That Justin was shot from a distance of at least several feet;
“c. That there was no evidence that Justin had ingested alcohol or any other intoxicants;
“d. That there were at least eleven (11) people in the room at the time that Justin was shot;
“e. That there was widespread ingestion of alcohol and intoxication amongst DynCorp employees, including but not limited to individual Defendants
Palmer, Fleming, Hillestad, Augustine, Igo, Tanner, Isaac [Doe 1] and Doe #’s 2-7, the night of Justin’s shooting death;
“That while DynCorp claimed to have a policy of zero tolerance for alcohol ingestion by DynCorp employees on its premises in Iraq, in fact, alcohol abuse was permitted, tolerated, authorized, condoned, approved, known, and promoted by Defendant DynCorp;
“That defendant DynCorp had ordered all its employees who were present in Justin’s room when he was shot and killed to go into a room and not come out until they had agreed upon a story as to how it had happened so they could conceal the truth; and
“Other pertinent information.
“Plaintiffs to this date have never been provided any information regarding the medical treatment that was provided to Justin after he was shot and before he died.
“Plaintiffs to this date have never been provided any of defendant DynCorp’s investigation reports or information about the internal investigation that supposedly occurred after the shooting.”
Even after Palmer’s conviction and sentencing, DynCorp continues to stick to its fabricated story, Pope’s family says.
They add: “The acts, false statements and omissions of defendants, described above, were intentional, willful, wanton, and designed to cause pain and injury. They were malicious, and were performed in violation of and with deliberate indifference and/or in reckless disregard of plaintiffs’ respective emotional well-being. …
These craven acts of dishonesty, some of which occurred immediately after Justin’s death and in the wake of his family’s shock and grief, and continue to this day, consisted both of fabricating events that did not happen (e.g. telling Justin’s family that ‘he shot himself’) and of intentionally withholding information regarding the circumstances of his death from the family. These acts of dishonesty were committed directly by defendants, and as part of the conspiracy, alleged herein, amongst defendants and with agents and officials of the United States government.”
Pope’s family seeks exemplary damages for conspiracy to intentionally inflict emotional injury, and intentional infliction of emotional injury.
They are represented by William Goodman, with Goodman Hurwitz.