The family of Isiah Brown, a gay Black man who ended up in the hospital with serious injuries after being shot by a sheriff’s deputy in April, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and against the individual deputy who shot him.
Brown, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting, was shot eight times while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher following a domestic dispute with his brother at the family’s home.
Attorneys for Brown’s family said he had been obeying the deputy’s commands prior to the shooting and have alleged the shooting was unjustified, reports Richmond-based NBC affiliate WWBT.
Brown was holding a cordless phone at the time of the shooting, but the sheriff’s deputy allegedly mistook the phone for a weapon.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Deputy David Turbyfill, and by extension, his employer, Spotsylvania County Sheriff Roger Harris, engaged in “gross negligence and willful and wanton negligence” by shooting Brown when he was unarmed, “contrary to accepted customs, usages, and standards for police conduct.”
The lawsuit also charges Turbyfill and Harris with battery and excessive force violations that violated Brown’s rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Brown’s lawyers have asked for a jury trial, and are seeking more than $26 million in damages for “ongoing and continuous permanent damages and injuries” suffered by Brown as a result of the shooting, including compensation for severe bodily injury, the cost of medical expenses, and pain and suffering, as well as attorneys’ fees associated with the cost of mounting the lawsuit.
Brown remained in critical condition for weeks but was eventually released from the hospital a month after the shooting.
However, his lawyers say their client sustained “serious and permanent” injuries that prevent him from working or resuming normal household duties, and has incurred expenses related to his physical therapy and other rehabilitative treatments.
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Turbyfill was previously indicted by a grand jury on a felony count of reckless handling of a firearm in July. Although the charge is usually a misdemeanor, due to the injuries suffered by Brown and the number of times he was shot, prosecutors decided to pursue a felony charge against Turbyfill. An indictment does not carry a presumption of guilt.
“Today, we filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Isiah Brown against Spotsylvania County Police Chief Roger Harris and Deputy David Turbyfill for their roles in the totally unnecessary shooting incident involving Mr. Brown that occurred April 21,” David Haynes, an attorney with the D.C.-based law firm The Cochran Firm, which is representing Brown, said in a release.
“The shooting resulted in numerous life-altering injuries to Mr. Brown which will leave him with permanent damage for the rest of his life,” Haynes said.
“Isiah Brown’s life will never be the same after his tragic encounter with David Turbyfill. Our hope is that this lawsuit will provide a measure of justice for Mr. Brown and force the Spotsylvania Police Department to enhance their training and update their policies and procedures so that this never happens to another person.”
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