PHOENIX (CN) - City police officers south of Phoenix needlessly shot to death an unarmed Army veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, his widow and children claim in court.
Maria Garcia and her four children filed a federal complaint Tuesday against the city of Maricopa and two of its police officers, Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth.
Maricopa, pop. 48,000, is south of Phoenix in Pinal County.
Garcia says the shooting was particularly egregious, as two days before he was killed, her husband went to the Maricopa police station to offer to help the Police Department learn how to interact with veterans with PTSD.
Garcia met her husband, Johnathon Guillory, in 2005 when they were both in the U.S. military. Guillory had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2003 after he returned from a second tour in Afghanistan. They married in December 2008, and had two sons together. Guillory also had two children from a previous relationship.
His widow says that after going out on Jan. 18, 2015 to watch football and eat brunch, they returned to their home in Maricopa at about 1 p.m. Guillory went into the garage to listen to music.
At 2:30 p.m., an emergency call was made from Guillory's cellphone, but resulted in a hangup. After that call, "nearly every, if not every, on duty MPD officer decided to go to the Guillory residence to see what was happening," Garcia lawsuit says in the lawsuit.
She says the officers surrounded Guillory, who was standing outside his house, though he posed no threat and the officers knew "of his PTSD and sensitivity to being approached by police."
Guillory walked away from the officers toward a park, telling the officers, "There is a guy behind me, tell him to stop taking his gun out," Garcia said.
Officer Hawksworth told him to stop walking and got out his vehicle with an AR-15 rifle, Garcia says. Hawksworth and Sgt. Perez then "fired a spray of bullets," killing Guillory with four shots to his torso. They did not attempt to shoot him at a "less lethal place," Garcia says.
Hawksworth and Perez claimed Guillory was carrying a gun, but "multiple civilian witnesses" did not see one, and Garcia says she was sure he did not have a gun on him.
An officer reported that he thought Guillory had an object in the waistband of his pants that could be a cellphone, the lawsuit states.
David Lunn, an attorney for the family, told Courthouse News it's unclear whether Guillory was carrying a gun.
"There were reports of a gun being found," Lunn said. "The gun they say was his, we don't believe was his gun at all."
The family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, civil rights violations and negligence. They also want Maricopa ordered to train its officers how to deal with people with post-traumatic stress.
"Particularly in Maricopa there is known to be a lot of veterans and people who suffer from PTSD," Lunn said. "[The police need] education and to get better processes and procedures in place."
The City of Maricopa declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Lunn is with DKL Law, of Scottsdale.
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