Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Lawsuit claims Joplin police officer shot man four times for no reason
The Newton County Prosecuting attorney eventually charged Hill with assaulting a law enforcement officer and driving while intoxicated. His trial is scheduled for May 22 in McDonald County Circuit Court, where it is being held on a change of venue.
The petition paints a different portrait of what happened than the official news releases issued by the Joplin Police Department.
Lugenbell and Officer Brent Davis arrived at the Oxford Apartments, talked with some people and when Davis left the building, he saw the headlights of the 2003 Nissan Sentra driven by Hill turn on in the parking lot.
Officer Davis used his flashlight to illuminate the driver of the Nissan Sentra and identified who he believed to be Plaintiff. Plaintiff then backed out of the parking spot and began to operate his vehicle heading north and subsequently east, around both apartment buildings, in an attempt to leave the apartment complex parking lot.
Officer Davis began running northeast back through the courtyard and, while doing so, informed Officer Lugenbell that he had seen Plaintiff. Both officers ran toward the direction in which they perceived Plaintiff’s vehicle would attempt to exit the parking lot.
As Defendant Lugenbell ran toward Plaintiff’s vehicle he drew his Glock .40 caliber firearm.
Defendant Lugenbell saw the 2003 Nissan Sentra as it was attempting to exit the parking lot and stated: “Stop right there, stop or I’ll shoot,” and immediately began unloading his firearm at the driver, Plaintiff Jeffrey Hill.
Defendant Lugenbell fired at Plaintiff Hill through the front of Plaintiff Hill’s vehicle, then through the passenger side of the vehicle, and continuing through the back of the vehicle as it was driving away.
Defendant Lugenbell fired a total of approximately 11 rounds at Plaintiff Hill, at least 4 of which struck Plaintiff Hill’s body causing severe and permanent injuries.
At no time did Plaintiff Hill pose an immediate threat to any person, including but not limited to Officer Lugenbell. Plaintiff Hill did not have a weapon and never used or threatened to use deadly force.
Plaintiff Hill never operated his vehicle in a matter deliberately intended to strike any officer or citizen nor would any reasonable person have perceived that Plaintiff Hill was intending to use his vehicle to strike any officer or citizen.
Officer Lugenbell’s use of deadly force was objectively unreasonable at the time it was used. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to run toward the path of Plaintiff Hill’s vehicle. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to fire his gun in a public, residential, and occupied area. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to fire at a moving vehicle. It was objectively unreasonable for Officer Lugenbell to continue firing at the side and then the back of the vehicle as it was driving away from him.
Officer Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein constitute excessive and deadly force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Officer Lugenbell’s actions and/or inactions as alleged herein amount to a violation of Plaintiff Hill’s Fourth Amendment, and clearly established, constitutional right against unreasonable seizure when he used excessive and lethal force by unreasonably shooting to kill Plaintiff Hill.
As a direct and proximate result of the actions of Officer Lugenbell alleged herein Plaintiff Hill suffered multiple bullet wounds to his body, including but not limited to, gunshot wounds to the upper right chest, the upper right abdomen, right forearm and right biceps.
As a direct and proximate cause of the gunshot wounds, and while still in the field, Plaintiff Hill lost consciousness, coded, and was intubated by emergency medical responders.
Upon arrival at the emergency room, Plaintiff Hill was pulseless and apneic. Emergency physicians immediately opened Plaintiff’s left chest and performed a resuscitative thoracotomy followed by a right-sided chest tube thoracostomy. Massive blood transfusion protocol was started. A left femoral central line was placed, a right femoral arterial line was placed and a left subclavian central line was placed.
Thereafter, Plaintiff Hill was taken to the operating room where surgeons performed an exploratory laparotomy and repair of the left lower lung with placement of a left-sided chest tube. Subsequently, Plaintiff was moved to the ICU on a ventilator, sedated and with bilateral chest tubes.
On December 2, 2015, and while still sedated, Plaintiff Hill was returned to the operating room where an orthopedic surgeon repaired his comminuted displaced right radial shaft fracture, which was caused by a gunshot wound to his right arm.
On December 4, 2015, Plaintiff Hill underwent a fiberoptic bronchoscopy procedure and was found to have extensive thick blood secretions bilaterally that were then aspirated.
On December 14, 2015 Plaintiff Hill underwent procedures to place a tracheostomy tube and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube. A few days later Plaintiff Hill was intubated. He was noted to have a nonocclusive left subclavian and axillary deep vein thrombosis and was started on blood thinner.
As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has incurred medical expenses in excess of $279,757.00) and in an amount to be proven with more specificity at trial.
As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Lugenbell’s action alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has suffered extreme pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss pleasure of living, and loss of generalized personal functions and abilities and will continue to experience severe pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life in the future and will require continuing, substantial and appropriate medical care resulting in the need for a life-care plan, all of said damages can be proved with reasonable certainty at trial.
As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has lost the use of his right arm.
As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Lugenbell’s actions as alleged herein, Plaintiff Hill has incurred, and will continue to incur in the future, permanent and severe pain and suffering, mental anguish, discomfort, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Hill is asking for damages and punitive damages. Named as defendants, in addition to Lugenbell are the city of Joplin and the Joplin Police Department.
Hill is represented by Columbia attorney Matthew B. Woods and Joplin attorney Patrick Martucci.
A December 10, 2015 JPD news release noted that a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation had ruled the shooting justified:
Beginning today, December 10, 2015, Officer Seth Lugenbell and Officer Brett Davis are returned to active duty. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) investigation yielded that Officer Lugenbell engaged Hill with his firearm as a result of Hill driving directly at Officer Lugenbell. Officer Davis did not deploy his firearm.
The MSHP investigation determined that the use of force used by Officer Lugenbell was justified. The MSHP will conduct an administrative review of their investigation. There will be a delay before the compilation and availability of the MSHP report.
The internal investigation, conducted by the Joplin Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau, continues. However, preliminary results of this facet of the investigation yields no reason for the officers to remain on administrative leave and they can return to serving the community.
Hill's lawsuit was originally filed March 17 in Jasper County Circuit Court and was removed to federal court today.