From [HERE] The family of Luke Stewart filed a federal lawsuit today against the city of Euclid and the two police officers who were directly involved in his March 2017 shooting death — including Matthew Rhodes, the officer who "entered into Luke’s car and beat, tased, and shot Luke multiple times, killing him."
In August, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict Rhodes for his role in Stewart's death.
The lawsuit comes seven months after the shooting, the details of which remained rather murky during an ongoing state investigation. The state admitted early, however, that Stewart was unarmed when he was shot and killed. He was not accused of committing a crime that day, when officers approached him while he slept in his car in Euclid. A brief chase ensued before Rhodes climbed into Stewart's car and shot him.
Rhodes and Officer Louis Catalani found Stewart asleep just before 7 a.m. in the driver’s seat of a Honda Accord. The officers spotted a small amount of marijuana in the car and discovered it was registered to an older man, the BCI's investigative report says. [hmmm. Not reported stolen and not illegal to drive someone else's car. Not illegal to sleep in a car. Where was this alleged "marijuana?" How did they know it was weed? Did it say so on the outside of the package?? Could they smell it through the window?]
The officers determined Stewart might be intoxicated and decided to pull him out of the car. [ho. determined he was intoxicated while he asleep? what incredible training and skill they must possess to detect alcohol intoxication by method of sleeping! No need for "standardized" field sobriety tests or roadside breath tests in Euclid! Some good journalism here too.] Catalani parked behind Stewart, and Rhodes parked in front of him to block him in [guess that didn't work].
The officers woke Stewart, who sat up and tried to put the car in gear. Both officers reached into the car and struggled with Stewart as the car started moving, the report says.
The car struck the back of a police cruiser before it swerved left toward Catalani. Rhodes, who reached into the passenger-side door, jumped into the car.
“I couldn't get out of the vehicle because it was moving and I didn't want to get smashed between my vehicle and the passenger door,” Rhodes told investigators.
Rhodes and Stewart struggled as the car careened along West 222nd Street. Rhodes kept putting the car in neutral and Stewart kept putting in gear. Rhodes punched Stewart, who responded by asking why he was in the car, Rhodes told investigators.
Rhodes used his Taser six times on Stewart, but it had little effect, the report says. Rhodes struck Stewart in the face with the Taser, the report says.
“I knew if I deployed pepper spray, I was going to become overcome with the pepper spray exposure and he would have been driving blind. So I knew not to pepper spray him, so I struck him several time in the side of the face with the Taser,” Rhodes said. [good plan buddy]
BCI investigators confirmed the Taser was fired six times, and medical examiners found Taser marks on Stewart's body during an autopsy.
Rhodes told investigators that he decided to shoot Stewart because the car jumped a curb and was headed toward several telephone poles.
“I thought we were going to hit a pole and I was going to go through that windshield,” Rhodes said. “I knew if that didn't kill me, he probably would have then ran me over...but my thought was I am going through this windshield and I am going to die." [sounds like solid gold bullshit from a liar racist suspect cop. But white prosecutors will believe anything they say - so will white jurors & judges.]
Rhodes shot Stewart in the chest, and Stewart responded by taking a swing at him, Rhodes told investigators. Rhodes avoided the punch and shot Stewart again in the neck, he said.
He shot Stewart five times, an autopsy showed.
Rhodes holstered his gun when the both Stewart and the car stopped moving, he said.
There is no dashboard camera video of the struggle that led to the shooting because neither Rhodes nor Catalani turned on his police cruiser’s overhead lights which activates the dashboard cameras, according to the report.
Body camera video released in the weeks after the shooting shows paramedics helping Stewart into an ambulance. The video came from the body camera of a police supervisor who arrived at the scene after the shooting. The department does not distribute body cameras to all of its officers, a police spokesman said earlier this year. [MORE]
The family seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as certain reforms from the Euclid Police Department that target the "policies, practices, and customs shown to encourage the use of excessive and unreasonable force and the extrajudicial shooting of civilians, particularly African-Americans ..."
For several months now, community members have joined the Stewart family in demanding answers from the city of Euclid. While the investigation was being handled by the state attorney general's office, city leaders tended to pass the buck onto the BCI. Now, however, the spotlight remains firmly on the city and police department's ability to communicate what comes next and how they plan to heal the deepening divisions.
Just a few months after Stewart's death, of course, officer Michael Amiott was seen beating a black man on a street. That incident prompted calls for change from the community, as well, to the point where it almost became confusing during a recent Euclid City Council meeting: Which case of police violence in Euclid were people talking about now?