Crime

No 'cause or provocation': Father sues Topeka police for killing his son

Body cam video shows officers fatally shooting Dominique White

Graphic body camera video shows two Topeka police officers fatally shooting Dominique White on Sept. 28. (Video by Topeka Capital-Journal)
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Graphic body camera video shows two Topeka police officers fatally shooting Dominique White on Sept. 28. (Video by Topeka Capital-Journal)

The father of Dominique White filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday saying Topeka police had no legal justification when they fatally shot his son in the back in a park last fall.

Six months after prosecutors said no criminal charges would be filed against the officers, Kelly White is seeking civil damages on behalf of his son and his son's four children.

The lawsuit names the city of Topeka, officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey — whom the lawsuit said fired the shots — and other unnamed officers.

The shooting of White on Sept. 28 stirred outrage from his family and from the Black Lives Matter movement after the black man was killed by white police officers.

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The Star had cited White's shooting among others as cases where families of people shot by law enforcement had been unable to view body camera footage.

Two months after the shooting, on Dec. 27, Shawnee County District Attorney Michael Kagay announced that no charges would be filed. At the same time, video footage of the shooting was released to the public.

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Kagay said that the shooting was justified in part because White's hand had hovered over a pocket that contained a gun.

Kelly White, in his lawsuit, says his son "presented no threat to the Defendant Officers or to anyone else" when he ran from the police. Each of the two officers fired four shots "without cause or provocation," the lawsuit said.

And the city, White contends, "acted with deliberate indifference" in providing inadequate training to the officers.

Three bullets hit White in the back, piercing his lungs and heart. The lawsuit said White was left bleeding on the ground without aid for at least 13 minutes before paramedics arrived.

White never brandished the gun, the lawsuit said, nor did he make any motion to reach toward the gun in his pants pocket.

City of Topeka spokesperson Molly Hadfield said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

The night of the shooting, police had gone to investigate at Ripley Park after receiving a report of shots being fired.

White was sitting at a picnic table with his girlfriend when Mackey and Cruse arrived in separate cars.

The lawsuit says White initially responded to the officers' commands and spoke with them. He lifted his shirt over his head, as commanded, and put his arms straight out in front of him.

Officers told him he was not under arrest but moments later began grabbing White's arms in an aggressive manner, the lawsuit said. At that point, White feared for his safety and fled. He was shot within a few seconds, the lawsuit said.

The shooting created tension between city officials and within the community. In November, activists with Black Lives Matter gathered outside the police department in what they called "Camp Justice."

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The availability of body camera and dash camera footage was one of the areas of concern in The Star's series "Why so secret, Kansas?"

The Legislature in May passed a law requiring law enforcement to allow families of victims of police shootings to see video footage within 20 days after a request is made.

Dominique White was killed by two Topeka police officers Sept. 28 after a reported struggle. His family has called for communication with law enforcement.

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