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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Officers Not Liable for Woman’s Revenge

(CN) - Michigan police did not give special treatment to a woman who, after being released from custody, fatally shot her boyfriend and injured two of his friends, the 6th Circuit ruled.

The estate of Leon Smithers, one of the injured men and another friend said the officers "conspired with one another and other officers in the department, in an attempt to hide ... the fact that the death and injuries should have been prevented by the Flint Police Department and its officers."

Police had arrested Smithers' girlfriend, Shirley Washington Ewing, on a trespassing charge after Smithers called police to have his "obviously intoxicated" girlfriend removed from his home. The two had gotten into an argument, but Ewing allegedly refused to leave.

Smithers said Ewing threatened to go home, get her 9-mm handgun and kill them if they called the police. She allegedly repeated the threat when officers arrived to take her to jail.

The officers denied hearing any death threats.

Ewing was booked on a trespassing charge and released. She then returned to her boyfriend's apartment with a gun, fatally shooting Smithers and wounding Alan Sharp and her brother, Booker Washington.

She was convicted of second-degree murder.

Smithers' estate, Sharp and Robert Bonner sued the police department, claiming the arresting officers should have booked Ewing for domestic violence instead of trespassing. Had they done so, the plaintiffs claimed, police would have been required to hold Ewing for 20 hours, thus preventing the tragedy.

They said Ewing got off easy because she is a woman; a male suspect would have been booked on a domestic violence charge and held for 20 hours.

The Cincinnati-based appeals court upheld dismissal of their constitutional claims.

"In short, plaintiffs' unsubstantiated opinions, that they believe that the situation would have been handled differently had the perpetrator been male, and the lack of statistics, which would be inconclusive at best, are insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment," Judge Boyce Martin Jr. wrote.

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