Parents of a 26-year-old man killed by Auburn police in 2019 have filed a federal wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit alleging an officer shot Enosa Strickland Jr. in the back of the head while he was lying face down in a parking lot.
The lawsuit also claims that the officer who shot him, Kenneth Lyman, has a long history of using force and was carrying an unapproved and “illegal” dagger which he later claimed was Strickland, who carried the initials “EJ”, had seized and refused. fall during a struggle.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleges that Lyman and another officer identified only with the initials “DM,” responded to a domestic disturbance in an apartment parking lot around 1 a.m. on May 20. , where a young woman “apparently rejected EJ’s romantic overtures.
“EJ did not engage in any illegal activity or violate any law,” according to the complaint. “EJ was unarmed. EJ has not been arrested.
The agents, concerned that EJ had drunk too much, allowed him to call his mother, Kathleen Keliikoa-Strickland. They spoke briefly on the phone and she agreed to come to the parking lot to drive him home, according to the claim.
“At some point, the interaction between EJ and the officers became tense,” the lawsuit states. ‘The interaction then turned physical after Officer Lyman punched EJ in the face at around 1:28 a.m.’ According to lawsuit and Seattle family attorney Edward Moore, ‘No warning, warning or caution was issued by either officer before Officer Lyman chose to punch EJ.
Moore said the complaint was based on police reports, witness statements and audio and video recordings from the dash cam.
Tiffany Lieu, a spokeswoman for Auburn, said the city is aware of the lawsuit but otherwise declined to comment.
The lawsuit alleges that Lyman and the other officer grappled with EJ, who landed face down on the ground and remained in that position throughout the struggle.
“About a minute into the fight, Constable Lyman made two attempts to shoot EJ in the back of the head with his firearm. The first time, the weapon did not discharge. The second shot fired and ended EJ’s life,” the lawsuit alleges.
An autopsy and evidence at the scene indicated that “EJ was face down” when the shot was fired. “The video produced by the City of Auburn contains no evidence that EJ posed an imminent risk of serious injury or death to anyone when Officer Lyman chose to shoot and kill. [him]“, according to the complaint.
In statements to the media and news reports, the department said Lyman claimed EJ grabbed a knife that had fallen from his uniform and refused to drop it. The lawsuit alleges that the knife was “an unauthorized and illegal dagger on his uniform” and alleges that it was improperly secured.
The lawsuit cites the young woman EJ had been with as a witness who said, “I heard ‘drop the knife, drop the knife or I’m going to shoot,'” she said, adding that she then heard Strickland laugh and say, “What knife are you talking about?” Seconds later, she heard a gunshot.
EJ’s mother and father, Enosa Strickland Sr., arrived four minutes later “just in time to see their son’s lifeless body on the sidewalk, handcuffed, with blood dripping down his head,” it said. the trial. “They suffered and continue to suffer significant trauma and emotional distress upon seeing this scene.”
Moore, the attorney, said Lyman was involved in 14 incidents where force was used.
Eleven days after Strickland was shot, another Auburn police officer, Jeff Nelson, shot 26-year-old Jesse Sarey outside a convenience store. Nelson claimed that Sarey grabbed a knife that was on his uniform vest during a fight, then shot Sarey in the stomach. As Sarey collapsed, video showed he attempted to fire a second shot; however, his firearm malfunctioned. Nelson cleared the jam and then shot Sarey a second time in the head, court documents show.
King County prosecutors have charged Nelson with murder and assault in the homicide, only the third time in the past 40 years that a Washington state officer has been charged with murder. His trial is ongoing.
The city of Auburn has settled a claim filed by Sarey’s family for $4 million, according to documents obtained from the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. The city paid $1.25 million to the family of another man killed by Nelson, Isaiah Obet, a week before Nelson was charged.
The district attorney’s office recused itself from reviewing the Strickland shooting over evidentiary issues, and the case was returned to Snohomish County, where prosecutors determined Lyman’s actions were legal.
Earlier this year, Auburn resident Peter Manning sued Lyman and the city, alleging the bureau crashed a SWAT van into Manning’s work truck, injuring him, then fled the scene. Although an internal investigation found Lyman guilty of misconduct, according to the Auburn Reporter newspaper, it is unclear whether he was disciplined.