UPPER MARLBORO – The mother of a man shot and killed by Prince George’s County deputy sheriff last fall has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the county after a grand jury decided not to move forward with an indictment. Gregory Lattimer, the attorney representing Michele Minor, Michael’s mother, has gone so far as to […]
UPPER MARLBORO – The mother of a man shot and killed by Prince George’s County deputy sheriff last fall has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the county after a grand jury decided not to move forward with an indictment.
Gregory Lattimer, the attorney representing Michele Minor, Michael’s mother, has gone so far as to call the case the “Ferguson of Prince George’s County.”
“Michael Minor is Michael Brown and Michael Brown is him,” Lattimer said, referencing an unarmed African American who died at the hands of police a officer in Ferguson, Missouri last summer that gained national media attention. “I have been dealing with police shootings for years and years and years. So everything that people are now starting to focus on is what has been going on for years. Now the general public is finally getting a view of what I have seen for years.”
On the evening of Oct. 22, 2014, Michael Minor, 38, left his Suitland home to walk his dog, Lattimer said. According to the lawsuit filed on April 6, on Oct. 23, 2014, Minor returned home shortly after midnight, where Deputy Sheriff Kendal Wade and another officer parked outside of his home.
According to the lawsuit, Minor, unarmed at the time, approached his home and officers arrived as a result of a domestic dispute call to the area. Lattimer said no video evidence exists showing Minor being involved in any domestic dispute.
Prince George’s County police, however, said at the time deputies responded to a call for a domestic dispute reportedly involving a gun.
After arriving on the scene and speaking with a woman inside, deputies learned Minor had left the home prior to their arrival, police said. The woman told the deputies she called 911 after Minor assaulted her and she believed he retrieved a handgun before he left. While they were still on the scene, Minor returned home and confronted the deputies. During the confrontation, one of the deputies discharged his duty weapon, striking Minor. Minor was taken to a hospital where he died several hours later.
Police said in a blog post on Oct. 24 that the preliminary investigation “suggests Minor failed to obey verbal commands and made furtive movements during the encounter. No weapon was recovered on the scene.”
According to the lawsuit filed by Michele, Wade drew his gun and fired it several times at Minor, hitting him at least once in the chest and once in his shoulder. Minor succumbed to his gunshot wounds five hours later.
According to the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, the office place Wade—a four year veteran assigned to the Domestic Violence Intervention Division—on routine administrative leave pending further investigation
“There was no threat. (Wade) had no basis to fear Mr. Minor and there was no basis to say that he was a threat,” Lattimer said. “But, my understanding is that he used the tried and true method that the police have used for years and that was the end of it.”
After an investigation into the shooting in the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s office, a grand jury decided during the week of March 30 to not indict Wade, said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The grand jury declined to indict, so our office declined to prosecute because the grand jury did not indict,” Erzen said. “I don’t know why they chose not to indict, but after hearing all of the evidence they chose not to indict.”
Lattimer said he did not expect an indictment to come against Wade for Minor’s death. There are often no indictments or prosecutions in cases against police officers because they are normally associated with shootings caught on video, Lattimer said.
“Police officers engage in conduct that results in the death of black men every day,” Lattimer said. “And, usually, they say the magic words – that they fear for their safety – and that is the end of it.”
According to Lt. Jarriel Jordan, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County police department, PGPD conducted their own homicide investigation on the shooting and ended up with the same results as the grand jury’s investigation.
Jordan said the police department reviewed the case with the State’s Attorney’s Office and decided to pursue no charges against Wade.
“This case was reviewed with State’s Attorney’s Office, who presented all evidence to the grand jury. The grand jury declined to go forward with any charges,” Jordan said.
Michele Minor filed her $10 million civil lawsuit against Prince George’s County, Sheriff Melvin High and Wade on eight counts, including wrongful death, police brutality, assault and battery and deprivation of civil rights.
Lattimer said the lawsuit did not come as a result of no indictment on Wade but from the desire to “have the truth come out and vindicate his death in the only way we can without criminal prosecution.”
There has yet to be any proof of a domestic situation, Lattimer said, and he has been trying to obtain a copy of the 911 call over the last few months, but it has not yet been presented to him despite efforts and requests to officials for evidence.
“The only thing known for sure is that Mr. Minor was unarmed when he was shot. That is the only thing we are absolutely certain of,” Lattimer said.
Minor death is not a “black and white issue”, Lattimer said but an issue of police violence against the black community. With more evidence coming out every day against police officers, Lattimer said he hopes to see a paradigm shift where people do not side with officers just because they are officers.
“Police officers are no better than any other human being. Human beings do things, sometimes, that they should not do. Police officers do things, sometimes, that they ought not do,” Lattimer said. “That is the way it should be looked at.”
Bruce Branch, a community activist and representative of the Prince George’s County Business and Contractor Association, said he is disappointed in the failed indictment of another officer.
“I know the police have a hard job to do, but I have a problem with unarmed black men being shot across the nation and nothing being done about it,” Branch said. “It is particularly troubling for me in Prince George’s County, where we have black leadership. We’re no better than Ferguson. We’re no better than North Charleston. We’re no better than New York City where Eric Gardner was killed.”
Elected officials must be held accountable for incidents such as the one that resulted in Minor’s death, Branch said.
Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP, said Minor’s death is an “unfortunate incident,” but an anomaly in Prince George’s County. Alsobrooks has indicted officers before, Ross said, so he trusts should have been able to get an indictment if enough evidence existed.
“I think this is a tragedy, don’t get me wrong. But here in the county last year we had four indictments against police officers,” Ross said. “A loss of life is a tragedy and like some of the facts indicate, it’s a difficult case. Our heart goes out to the Minor family.”
This is not a pattern in Prince George’s County, Ross said. The case is different from cases in Ferguson, Ohio, New York and other places where unarmed African American men have been shot.
“There’s a little different of a pattern here,” Ross said.