Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Washington, D.C. Police Department
Posted on Oct 11, 2007
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office now are in charge.
In a fervent wrongful death case in the Nation’s Capital, the attorney for the deceased and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) agree on nothing surrounding the death of a teenager.
Teen Died from Gunshot to Back of Head
Determined is 14-year-old Deonte Rawlins died of a bullet to the back of his head. As of this week, family attorney Gregory Lattimer filed a $100 million, wrongful death lawsuit against the MPD.
“This is as close to official murder as one can get," Lattimer told WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington.
Authorities said on September 17, two off-duty officers in plain clothes responded to a report that one of their homes was burglarized.
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier said two officers drove around looking for the alleged stolen item -- a mini bike. The officers saw a teen on a mini-bike in the 600 block of Atlantic Street SE and approached in their civilian vehicle.
Police Allege Teen Fired First
"When the officer pulled up next to the decedent on the mini-bike, the decedent opened fire three times, striking the officer's vehicle while the officer was still inside. The officer returned eight shots did not have time to identify himself," the chief said.
Not so, said Lattimer. And he has three witnesses to support him. “There was no gun in the hands of Deonte Rawlins," Lattimer said. "Deonte Rawlins never fired a weapon. Deonte was trying to get away. He was running.”
Lattimer said one of his witnesses was running away with Deonte when officers fired. The attorney hasn’t said police are lying but he’s implying a cover up.
"The police didn't release the autopsy report," Lattimer said. "Nobody told us about this boy being shot in the back of the head. Nobody told us about these bruises. They won't even tell us about this mini-bike they supposedly found. What about this gun? Where is this gun? What about all the evidence they supposedly have? Where is it?"
Lattimer also contends James Haskel, the officer who shot and killed Rawlins, had previous encounters with the youth, harassing him about alleged drug activity and shootings in the area.
Rawlins' father maintains his son did not have a gun and said someone else fired the shot that pierced the officer’s sport utility vehicle. Neighbors in the Condon Terrace community said there were 20 teenagers in the area when the officer fired.
The autopsy report showed Rawlins was shot in the back of the head. The report revealed Rawlins had cuts, bruises and blunt-force trauma to the left side of his face, shoulders and back.
Autopsy Found No Gunpowder on Decedent’s Fingers
"Those injuries [from the autopsy] are consistent with only two things -- either the officers physically assaulted him or he was hit and dragged by a vehicle," Lattimer said. "Those are the only two things that would justify the injuries Deonte suffered."
The autopsy report revealed no gunpowder residue on the decedent’s fingers, which would signify the firing of a gun.
The officer who fired the shots is a 22-year veteran assigned to the department's special operations division. The accompanying officer is a 19-year veteran with the training academy.