Township police sued for ‘unreasonable force’

FLINT TWP. — The family of Dominique Lewis, the young man shot and killed by a township police officer during a traffic stop last July, has filed a lawsuit against the township and the police officer.

Filed April 20 in U.S. Eastern District Court in Detroit, the suit names as defendants the Charter Township of Flint and Officer Matthew Needham.

The plaintiff is Carmita Lewis, the mother of Dominique. She is represented by Ven Johnson and Rebecca Filiatraut of the Johnson Law firm in Detroit.

The complaint and demand for jury trial alleges three counts including “the use of unnecessary and unreasonable force” and failure to properly train officers.

“This young man did something that was not very smart but he did not deserve to die,” said Filiatraut, who cited the growing national problem of police being charged with excessive force, particularly related to the deaths of male minorities.

The suit outlines the incidents preceding Lewis’ death, which began as a traffic stop by another township officer who called for backup in order to search the vehicle occupied by four people including Lewis.

The officers were searching the passengers one by one when Lewis, the last person in the car, is alleged to have climbed from the rear passenger seat into the driver’s seat. He attempted to drive away, nearly striking Officer Needham who ran around the front of the car while yelling “Stop Police,” according to the lawsuit.

“Needham then ran completely around the front of the car before illegally and unnecessarily shooting his firearm multiple times through the driver’s door,’’ the law suit states.

“Dominique was struck by the bullets shot by Needham and remained conscious for minutes before he ultimately died of multiple gunshot wounds,’’ according to the law suit.

A dash-cam video of the incident also recorded the actions leading up to Dominique being shot.

Michigan State Police independently investigated the shooting and concluded that it was justified under Michigan law, according to a press release issued last October by the office of Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.

Based on state police findings, Leyton said Officer Needham would not be charged.

According to a press release from Leyton’s office, Officer Needham “fired two shots at Mr. Lewis in self-defense and to prevent his escape.”

It was stated that Lewis was immediately given emergency aid by the officer and a physician who was passing by. Lewis was transported to Hurley Medical Center in Flint where he later died.

Attorney Gus Morris, who represents the township, declined comment until he has completed a consultation with his clients.

On behalf of the Lewis’s family, attorney Filiatraut said Dominique Lewis was only 23 with his whole life ahead of him.

“He made a bad choice by leaving the crime scene but he certainly did not deserve to die,” she said, noting that police had a description and plate number of the vehicle as well as identification of the driver and other passengers to facilitate tracking down and later arresting Lewis.

“There’s no need to use unnecessary force during the course of an ordinary traffic stop,’’ Filiatraut said. “Police using excessive force has become a prevalent problem in the country. People want to see it stopped,”

The lawsuit seeks a judgment in excess of $75,000 plus costs, interest, attorney fees and punitive damage. It cites damages to the victim’s mother including medical, hospital and funeral expenses, pain and suffering, loss of financial support, loss of services, gifts, wages, and other valuable gratuities and loss of society and companionship. Filiatraut estimated that it could take about two years for this case to reach resolution.

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