Family of robbery suspect killed by Phoenix police plans $6M lawsuit

Jun 27, 2019, 2:39 PM | Updated: Jan 8, 2020, 2:48 pm

PHOENIX – The family of an armed robbery suspect fatally shot by Phoenix police in January is planning to sue the city for $6 million in the third multimillion-dollar claim over alleged misconduct by officers this month.

Like the family who made a $10 million claim over police response in a shoplifting case, the family of 19-year-old Jacob Harris is being represented by former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and advised by Phoenix civil rights advocate Rev. Jarrett Maupin.

Maupin, Horne and Roland Harris, Jacob’s father, discussed the case during a press conference Thursday and released the notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, they’d submitted to the city.

The family and their supporters say the young man was fleeing and posed no threat when police shot him in the back.

When the Jan. 10 shooting was first reported, police said Harris pointed a handgun at officers before they fired.

“They shot Jacob in the back,” Roland Harris said in a press release. “They lied about Jacob and made up a story that he threatened them. It never happened.

“The only thing my son did was run for his life, and the cops shot him in cold blood.”

Black and white thermal video from a police helicopter that was leaked to 12 News on Wednesday shows a person getting out of a car and running away before falling forward and lying still.

After 12 News broadcast the footage, representatives for Harris’ family distributed a 13-second clip of the incident.

“The video footage is damning for the police department and shows that Jacob never once threatened the police,” Horne said in the release.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson released a statement Wednesday saying the video had been released to the TV station in error.

“In addition, we have been advised that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is seeking an order that would prevent the Phoenix Police Department from releasing the video to anyone other than the prosecution in the criminal case. Channel 12 was notified by the Phoenix Police Department of the intentions of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office this morning,” the statement read.

The station also received and broadcast video of the armed robbery at an Avondale fast food restaurant that preceded the shooting near 91st Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix. That footage shows one of several masked suspects holding an employee at gunpoint.

Police who took that video had been following the suspects because they were believed to be involved in multiple robberies in the area, according to 12 News.

The helicopter video shows multiple police vehicles in pursuit when one bumped the back of the suspects’ vehicle, which skidded and stopped.

Police deployed a flash-bang grenade, a nonlethal explosive device used to disorient suspects, before Harris emerged from the vehicle seconds before being shot.

Three other robbery suspects, 20-year-old Jeremiah Lynn Triplett, 19-year-old Sariah Christine Busani and a 14-year-old male, were taken into custody. They face murder charges because of their involvement in a crime during which a person was killed.

Maupin said in an email the officers who fired at Harris, Dave Norman and Kris Bertz, have been involved in six controversial shootings since 2014 resulting in at least two other deaths.

“We want these officers fired,” Maupin said in the release. “We do not want them suspended. We do not want them on desk duty. We do not want excuses. These two officers are a threat to public safety.”

When asked whether Norman and Bertz had been disciplined in connection with the Harris shooting and if Maupin’s claims about other incidents were accurate, Thompson told KTAR News 92.3 FM the department couldn’t discuss the case because of pending litigation.

Horne said the police department has resisted releasing documentation of the incident.

“We had to sue the city to get the report and we had to threaten to sue the city to get the video,” he said in the release.

The family obtained 121 pages of police documents and posted them online Tuesday.

It’s been a turbulent month for the Phoenix Police Department.

On June 13, Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper filed a $10 million notice of claim accusing Phoenix police of battery, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, infliction of emotional distress and violation of their civil rights.

Their case became national news after bystander cellphone video of the May incident went viral. The footage shows one officer pointing his gun and yelling expletives at Harper, who is pregnant and holding a baby, and another roughly handling Ames.

Then on Monday, Erica Reynolds filed a $12.5 million notice of claim over an allegedly illegal body cavity search in December. After the claim was filed, Phoenix police said the female officer who conducted the search was suspended months ago after an internal investigation.

Reynolds’ claim accuses police of sexual assault and battery, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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Family of robbery suspect killed by Phoenix police plans $6M lawsuit