TEMPE, Ariz. (CN) – The parents of a 19-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a white Tempe, Arizona, police officer last year have filed separate lawsuits against the city and the officer who shot their son.
Dalvin Hollins was shot by Lt. Edward Ouimette on July 27, 2016, after an armed robbery was reported at a Walgreens in Tempe.
His parents, Calvin Hollins and Sarah Coleman, claim in separate lawsuits filed this week in Maricopa County Court claim that it was unclear who robbed the Walgreens because there were varying descriptions of what the robber looked like.
According to Coleman, no witnesses saw a gun during the robbery even though the suspect told an employee he was armed. The suspect was wearing a gray shirt and had his hand in a black bag, reports said.
After a description of the suspect was released, an officer spotted Dalvin nearby and tried to talk to him, the lawsuits claim. Dalvin was shirtless, and was not reported as armed.
Ouimette, who was approaching the scene in his patrol car, saw Dalvin take off running toward a senior center and gave chase on foot.
Coleman says that before Ouimette responded to the scene, he heard over the police radio that it was unclear if the suspect had a gun.
Dalvin’s parents both claim that during the pursuit, their son pointed his hand at Ouimette. Ouimette believed he was holding a handgun.
“Defendant Ouimette failed to recognize what a gun looks like or was inadequately trained on how to recognize a gun,” Coleman’s complaint claims.
Ouimette fired one shot at Dalvin, hitting him in the back. Dalvin ran inside the senior center, where he hid in a closet and was later found dead from his injuries.
Coleman’s lawsuit cites testimony from a witness, Walter Ramos, who said he did not hear Ouimette give her son any verbal commands and only saw a T-shirt in Dalvin’s hands during the incident.
According to the complaints, Ouimette said he told Dalvin, “Stop or I’m gonna shoot you!” He told investigators he thought Dalvin had a gun in his hand and feared there could be a hostage situation if Dalvin got to the senior center.
No gun was ever found on Dalvin or at the scene.
“Despite the fact that no gun existed, defendant Ouimette responded by pointing his duty firearm at Dalvin, firing one time at the shirtless and gunless teenager,” Coleman says in her complaint. “Defendant Ouimette claims that he fell to the ground in order to get out of the way of this nonexistent fictitious gun.”
In April, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery declined to press charges against Ouimette.
“The decision to shoot, therefore, under Arizona law, is a permissible use of deadly force, and there is no evidence to permit a conclusion that charges could be filed for a crime under Arizona law,” Montgomery said.
While Ouimette was wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting, it was not activated.
Sgt. Josie Montenegro, a Tempe police spokeswoman, told Courthouse News Ouimette is currently on leave until he recovers from injuries he sustained during the shooting.
This incident has led to an update in the department’s body camera policy.
“The Tempe Police Department … took steps to improve our procedures by requiring officers to immediately activate their body worn cameras when responding to an emergency type call as opposed to when they arrive at an emergency call,” Montenegro said in a statement.
Coleman seeks compensatory damages on claims of wrongful death, negligence and assault. She is represented by David Dow. Calvin Hollins seeks general and special damages on a wrongful death claim. He is represented by Darius Bursh of McCain and Bursh.
Bursh did not respond to a request for comment.