Family of man fatally shot by sheriff’s deputy in 2014 sues
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The family of a man fatally shot by a St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputy filed a lawsuit Wednesday, saying the deputy used excessive force when he fired through a garage door.
Gregory Hill Jr., a 30-year-old Coca-Cola warehouse employee, was shot by St. Lucie County deputy Christopher Newman two years ago after Newman and another deputy responded to a complaint that Hill was playing loud music.
The state court lawsuit, filed on behalf of Hill’s three children against Newman and Sheriff Ken Mascara, says Newman and deputy Edward Lopez pounded on Hill’s front door at 3 p.m. Jan. 14, 2014. In response, Hill pushed up the garage door, which didn’t have an automatic opener.
Attorney John Phillips says Lopez yelled Hill had a gun. He says Hill was pulling the garage door down when Newman fired four shots, striking Hill three times, including a shot to the head that killed him instantly. Lopez didn’t fire. An unloaded handgun was found in Hill’s back pocket.
Phillips said the bottom of the garage door was no more than 6 to 18 inches off the ground when Newman began firing as shown by the location of the four bullet holes and Hill’s corresponding wounds.
The shooting “doesn’t make sense,” Phillips said. “Where is the threat?”
He says witnesses, including parents picking up their children from an elementary school across the street, said the confrontation was over in seconds, making it impossible for Hill to have pointed the gun at the deputies and put it back in his pocket while simultaneously pulling down the garage door. He said Hill had some misdemeanor drug possession convictions, but no felonies, so the gun was legal for him to possess.
After the shooting, the deputies retreated and a SWAT team was called in. Incorrectly fearing Hill may have been holding his children hostage, SWAT members fired numerous tear gas rounds into the home, leaving it uninhabitable for Hill’s children and fiancee, Terrica Monique Davis, Phillips said.
The St. Lucie sheriff’s office didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment.
According to the TC Palm newspapers, Mascara issued a statement after the shooting saying that Hill opened the door with one hand and had a gun in the other. Mascara said the deputies ordered him to drop it, but he pointed it at Lopez, causing Newman to fire as the door closed. The paper said an autopsy showed Hill had a blood-alcohol content of .40 percent, a level that’s five times the limit for driving and can be fatal. Phillips questions that finding.
Newman was cleared by both sheriff’s investigators and a grand jury.
Phillips pointed out that until a recent Broward County case, no Florida law enforcement officer had been indicted for an on-duty shooting in three decades.
Davis said Wednesday that investigators talked to her two weeks after the shooting and suggested that Hill may have been committing suicide-by-cop, saying he was depressed because his brother was in jail. She said that’s not true.
“His brother had already been in jail for two years — they have to come up with something better than that,” Davis said. She said they were two months from getting married.