Family of black man shot by Kansas deputy files lawsuit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of an unarmed black man who was shot in the back following a police chase in Kansas has filed a lawsuit alleging he was beaten by officers while he lay dying from a gunshot wound.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court by the family of Matthew Holmes, 24, stems from an Aug. 28, 2017, incident that began with a 911 call regarding a vehicle burglary in progress in Newton. A chase of the suspect’s vehicle reached speeds in excess of 100 mph during the 20-mile pursuit that ended after officers twice deployed “stop sticks” that caused the car to completely lose a tire.
Authorities who investigated the shooting found Holmes was shot in the back by McPherson County sheriff’s Deputy Chris Somers while Holmes was on the ground struggling with Newton police Officer Anthony Hawpe, who was pinned to the ground with Holmes on top of him. Hawpe had called out to other officers on the scene to “watch my gun.”
The McPherson County sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a message left for comment.
McPherson County Attorney Gregory Benefiel declined to bring criminal charges against any of the officers. His review of the investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was made public in December. It found that, although there was no evidence that Holmes actually gained control of the gun, the officer had a reasonable belief Hawpe faced imminent death or great bodily harm.
Benefiel’s report noted the deputy calculated that if his shot passed through Holmes to the officer pinned under him, it would strike the officer’s ballistic vest that protected him.
The family’s lawsuit alleges Holmes, who suffered from schizophrenia, had exited his car with his hands up when he was physically attacked by an officer and a police dog. The complaint alleges Hawpe jumped on top of Holmes “despite clear signs of surrender.” As he was being physically attacked, the lawsuit contends Somers shot Holmes in the back.
It also contends officers continued to beat Holmes, and alleges Newton police Officer Skyler Hinton repeatedly struck Holmes with a club as he lay dying.
The lawsuit was filed by Holmes’ estate and names as defendants several known and unknown officers from various law enforcement agencies, as well as McPherson County, the city of Newton and Harvey County.