Family of man slain by LR officer files lawsuit
LITTLE ROCK — The family of a man shot and killed by a Little Rock police officer working off-duty outside a bar filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, claiming the officer used excessive force and that the man’s death was caused by the city’s failure to properly train its law enforcement.
Attorneys for the family of 28-year-old James Hartsfield filed the lawsuit against the city, the officer and the night club. Hartsfield was fatally shot by Officer Brittany
Gunn in October 2017 as he sped toward a brick wall with her inside the vehicle. Hartsfield and Gunn, who was working off-duty at the Local Union bar at the time, were both black. Hartsfield was a driver for Lyft and was picking up a passenger from the bar.
“This is just a terrible, terrible situation here, one that was predictable, one that was preventable,” Mike Laux, the family’s attorney, said at a news conference with members of Hartsfield’s family.
City Attorney Tom Carpenter said he had not seen the lawsuit and did not have any comment, and a spokesman for the police department declined to comment on the suit. The owner of Local Union, the bar named in the lawsuit, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Prosecutors last year cleared Gunn of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting. The officer also wasn’t disciplined and didn’t undergo any additional training following the shooting, according to the lawsuit.
Police at the time of the shooting said that Gunn saw Hartsfield drink from what appeared to be a bottle of liquor while driving. Gunn and another officer tried to remove Hartsfield from the vehicle when he sped off, police said. Both officers were treated at a hospital for multiple abrasions and contusions. The lawsuit, however, said that no bottle was ever collected or tested for fingerprint or DNA evidence by Little Rock police, and that Gunn had no legal authority to enter his car prior to the shooting.
The lawsuit claims the shooting demonstrated the city’s failure to train its officers properly. The suit was filed a week after Little rock police fired a white officer who killed a black motorist when he shot at least 15 times through the moving car’s windshield. Prosecutors last month declined to file charges against Officer Charles Starks in the February shooting of Bradley Blackshire.