ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The family of a St. Joseph man who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop contends in a lawsuit that officers used excessive force and were not adequately trained for such situations.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Buchanan County Circuit Court comes a week after the county prosecutor announced St. Joseph police officer Justin Bever would not be charged in the February shooting death of 27-year-old Jason Fanning, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (https://bit.ly/2pDv8tf ).
Attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of Fanning’s father, Steven Fanning, and his two children. It seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages from the city of St. Joseph, officer Bever and Police Chief Chris Connally.
A reserve officer from the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Officer, Brenda Fletchall, was on a ride-along with Bever when he stopped Fanning for a traffic violation. Fanning was shot when he put his vehicle in reverse while both officers were outside the patrol car.
Much of the dispute centers on how much of a threat Fanning posed when he put his vehicle into reverse. The lawsuit claims Fanning was not armed.
The lawsuit states that Fanning “began to roll backward at a low rate of speed” just before Bever fired his weapon eight times. It contends neither Bever nor Fletchall was in danger and Bever “had no reasonable belief that force was necessary to protect himself from physical harm.”
The Fraternal Order of Police previously issued a statement that Fanning’s vehicle accelerated backward at “a high rate of speed” and that Bever fired his weapon because he feared for Fletchall’s life.
In announcing no charges would be filed, prosecutor Dwight Scroggins said an investigation could not determine that Bever’s belief regarding the potential threat was unreasonable.
An attorney representing the city did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press Thursday seeking comment.
Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com
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