(CN) – The mother of 20-year-old black man killed during an unwarranted chase by Winchester, Virginia police claims in court the department tried to cover up her son’s murder by insisting he shot himself in the back of the head.
In a complaint filed in the federal court in Harrisonburg, Virginia on May 1, plaintiff Jacqueline Minifield-Brown claims that on the afternoon of Feb. 28, 2016, her son D’Londre and a friend where walking near an apartment complex when they were confronted by police officers.
At the time, Minifield-Brown says, the officers were searching for a suspect after a fight on the property, but neither her son or his friend matched the suspect’s description.
The suspect, Devon Brown, was a light-skinned black man with very short hair, who was wearing a jeans jacket, the complaint says.
D’Londre Minifield, by comparison, was a dark-skinned black man with long braids. At the time of the incident, the complaint says, he was wearing a black jacket.
Minifield-Brown claim that when her son and his friend were set upon by police, he was startled, frightened and confused, and instinctively ran from the officers.
She says after her son came upon a chain-link fence and began to climb it, the officers shocked him with a stun gun, temporarily paralyzing him.
While he was in this defenseless condition, Minifield-Brown says, the officers proceeded to punch, kick and choke her son.
When D’Londre Minifield came to, his mother says, he tried to continue climbing the fence to get away from the officers. When he did, one of the officers shot and killed him, the complaint says.
But Minifield-Brown says rather than holding the officer responsible for killing, the police department and city engaged in a cover-up, attacking the credibility of two eye witnesses who gave their accounts to a local newspaper.
One witness who spoke out in the newspaper article was threatened with having her child taken away by Social Services, the complaint says.
Minifield-Brown says the Virginia State Police, Winchester Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher and the city continue to claim her son died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
She also says that police released her sons criminal history after his killing to demonize him and justify the officers’ pursuit of him.
Minifield-Brown says her son did not have a gun with him when the police chase began, and did not have one in his possession at the time of his death.
She also says investigators failed to place bags on Minifield’s hands to preserve gun-shot residue which is protocol in self-inflicted gunshot wound investigations.
Investigators claimed Minifield shot himself in the back of the head while lying face down on the ground and stated they found a gun under his head, the complaint says.
Minifield-Brown says City of Winchester police officers regularly discriminates against black men, subjecting them to frequent unwarranted traffic stops and other searches.
Minified-Brown is seeking $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief to prevent any further interference with eyewitnesses to the shooting.
She is represented by Bradley Pollack of Woodstock, Virginia.