AMARILLO, Texas (CN) – A frustrated cop shot to death a man who stole an ice cream truck and drove it at “safe and prudent” speed for 6 1/2 hours, posing no threat to the public, the man’s family claims in Federal Court.
Lucia Guerrero, of Fontana, Calif., sued the City of Amarillo and police Officer Jowell Bullard, on behalf of the late Ruben A. Flores and his minor child.
Guerrero claims that Bullard shot Flores, her relative, after Flores “gently weaved” around spike strips, and after “6 1/2 hours of safe and prudent driving.”
Guerrero acknowledges that Flores stole the ice cream truck, at about 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2010. She says he “processed to drive it in a reasonably and safe [sic] fashion through the streets of Amarillo.”
She claims Amarillo police spotted him “after 6 1/2 hours of safe and prudent driving,” and “a sloe speed chase ensued.”
Guerrero claims that Flores never tried to harm officers, pedestrians or other vehicles.
“The shooter defendant, infuriated by Flores’ elusiveness, pulled his service revolver and began a foot chase of the vehicle,” Guerrero says in the complaint. “The shooter defendant attempted to put himself in harm’s way in front of Flores’ vehicle but Flores maneuvered around him in an effort to avoid harming the shooter defendant.
“The shooter defendant then, without any legitimate fear of imminent bodily harm to himself or others, shot Flores through the passenger side door which was open, striking Flores in the chest and killing him. Flores was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone during the incident.”
Guerrero cites nine previous instances in which Amarillo police allegedly used excessive force, shooting people, and claims the Police Department fails to properly train and supervise its officers.
“APD has failed to have adequate live shooting/moving vehicle training exercises to train officers on the use of force in emotionally tense, real life circumstances,” the complaint alleges. “As a result, officers routinely fire their weapons inappropriately at unarmed subjects and vehicles causing unwarranted escalation of tension, serious injury and death.”
She adds: “Evidence of an obvious need for training officers beyond minimal legal levels was overwhelming prior to the Flores shooting. The pervasive pattern of unconstitutional conduct by officers was apparent to all policymakers who had the power to order the training repeatedly requested by supervisors within the police department since 1999.”
Guererro say the shooting violated the department’s own General Order 3.03, which states, “when confronted by an oncoming vehicle, the optimum course of action is for the officer to move out of its path, if possible, rather than fire at the vehicle. Firing at a vehicle often presents an unacceptable risk to innocent bystanders, is typically ineffective in readily disabling or stopping a vehicle and will not normally be undertaken.”
Guerrero seeks punitive damages for excessive force and negligence.
She is represented by Jesse Quackenbush, with Will Ferguson & Associates, of Albuquerque.