The mother of a 51-year-old man fatally shot last year by Independence police has filed a wrongful death lawsuit over his killing.
Carlos A. Cruz was fatally shot in January 2017 at the Independence Ridge Apartments in the 18900 block of East 37th Terrace South.
Police said Cruz was shot after pointing a shotgun at officers.
Jackson County prosecutors, after reviewing the facts of the shooting, declined to file charges against the officer who shot Cruz.
But the lawsuit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court alleges that Cruz did not pose a threat to officers when he was shot.
It names as defendants the city of Independence, Police Chief Brad Halsey and the officer who fired the fatal shot.
The shooting occurred after Cruz’s mother called 911 because he was drinking and threatening to kill himself, according to the suit.
“Instead of addressing the situation as a mental health crisis, the officers treated Cruz as a criminal,” the suit alleges.
Arriving officers surrounded the apartment building, “drew their guns, pointed their guns at Cruz, and instructed all family members inside the apartment to exit,” the suit says.
Cruz walked outside holding a bottle of alcohol and placed the shotgun he was threatening to kill himself with on the porch railing, according to the suit.
Independence police did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit Monday.
The lawsuit describes what happened next:
When one officer said he had “a shot,” a police sergeant told him not to shoot and said the goal was to avoid agitating him.
Another officer began talking to Cruz, who never threatened officers and remained calm.
Cruz told them he was fine and was only concerned about his dogs getting water.
The negotiating officer instructed Cruz to repeat back what she was telling him. Cruz was in the middle of repeating a sentence when an officer fired a single shot from an AR-15 rifle, striking him in the chest and killing him.
“In essence, the Independence Police Department decided to prevent Cruz from killing himself by killing him,” the suit alleges. “At the time he was killed, Cruz had not committed a crime, he was not suspected of committing a crime, and he had not threatened anyone or police officers. There was simply no justification for shooting and killing Carlos Cruz.”
After the shooting, officers engaged in what the suit terms a “botched attempt” to cover up the mistakes made by police that night.
While officers gave inconsistent statements and reports on some points, they agreed on others, according to the suit:
Police knew that Cruz was suicidal when they arrived on the scene; the officers agree that Cruz did not purposely pick up the shotgun, put his finger on the trigger, and take aim at officers; the officers, with the exception of Cruz’s shooter and one other officer, agree that the shotgun never left the porch railing; and the officers agree that Cruz did not threaten the officers or anyone else.
The use of deadly force was unjustified and unnecessary, according to the suit, which seeks an unspecified amount in damages.