OMAHA (CN) — The mother of a man who was fatally shot in the back three times by an Omaha police officer sued the officer and the city Monday, asking for $2 million in damages for wrongful death.
Officer Alvin Lugod shot Daniel Elrod to death on Feb. 23, 2015. Elrod was suspected of stealing candy and cigarettes from a Family Dollar store. Elrod, 39, was unarmed and his "arms were extended" when Lugod shot him, his mother says in the complaint. He died at a hospital an hour later.
Lugod resigned in March 2015, two weeks after a grand jury cleared him of criminal wrongdoing. After the police chief accepted Lugod's resignation, Elrod's widow's attorney at the time, James Martin Davis, told NBC station WOWT Channel 6 that though Lugod would not be criminally charged, "It didn't mean there weren't serious violations of departmental policy."
Davis told the NBC station at the time that the widow would not decide whether to file a civil rights lawsuit until they could see video evidence that had been presented to the grand jury.
He said they also wanted to see a recent mental evaluation of Elrod, "which could support the 'suicide by cop' theory by police," WOWT reported on March 24, 2015.
"It's the second officer-involved shooting that involved this officer. And this time this officer shot an unarmed man and shot him in the back three times," Davis told NBC.
Lugod's mother, Lucinda Beadle, is represented by Brian Jorde with the Domina Law Group in the Monday lawsuit.
"Police shootings and killings of unarmed citizens have become an epidemic in our nation," Jorde told Courthouse News. "Mr. Elrod's family wants to prevent more unnecessary deaths at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us. Danny Elrod suffered a needless death and his wife is now without a husband and his young son is without a father."
Elrod's son is 6 years old.
The Elrods say this was not the first time Lugod displayed "unprofessional conduct including improper use of force," though the city had not removed him from duty.
The Omaha Police Department declined to comment. Its account of the fatal confrontation differed from the Elrod family's during grand jury deliberations in March 2015.
The Omaha World-Herald reported on March 12, 2015 that Elrod acted erratically when confronted by police. According to Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, Elrod refused to show his hands when ordered to do so and reached into the waistband of his pants, the World-Herald reported.
"Elrod hollered at officers: 'Shoot me? Shoot me? For what?' He continued to ignore officers' commands," according to the newspaper report.
Elrod then leapt from the hood of a car toward a fence, and Lugod shot him, according to police. The 98-second confrontation was recorded on video.
Amanda Elrod, the widow, "didn't want the officer prosecuted for homicide," attorney Davis told the World-Herald after Lugod was cleared by the grand jury. "She's more concerned with the civil aspect as opposed to criminal.
Attorney Jorde said Tuesday: "Greater training, education, and supervision are required by the OPD for its officers who are in dangerous situations each and every day so that they clearly understand when deadly force is justified and when it is not. Shooting and killing an unarmed person in the back who was posing no substantial risk to others is never justified and cannot be accepted in our community or anywhere in this country."
The Oct. 10 lawsuit contains an offer to settle for $2 million, for wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering. It gives the respondents 30 days to respond, and says that the settlement offer "shall not be repeated."
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