ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia mother says in a federal lawsuit that her unarmed son’s civil rights were violated when he was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer.
Melva Rogers on Monday sued the city, police Chief George Turner and former officer James Burns, who was fired after the shooting. Authorities have said Burns killed her 22-year-old son, Deravis Caine Rogers, while responding to a call about a suspicious person June 22. Rogers was black, and Burns is white.
“Defendants have a persistent and widespread practice of allowing the City of Atlanta Police officers to use unreasonable and deadly force without justification,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and unspecified damages.
City spokeswoman Anne Torres said the fact that Burns was fired quickly shows that Turner has high standards for his officers and added that the city’s law department would vigorously defend the city and chief.
Drew Findling, a lawyer for Burns, said he believes the criminal charges and the lawsuit are premature and baseless.
Turner fired Burns on July 1 after an internal investigation determined Burns used unnecessary and excessive force. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard last week charged Burns with murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and violation of his oath of office.
Burns turned himself in Saturday and had his first court appearance Monday. Bond was set at $240,000 at a hearing Thursday, and Findling said he expects Burns to be released on bond.
Burns responded after an off-duty officer working as a security officer at an apartment complex called police dispatch to report a suspicious person, Howard said in a release announcing the charges. When Burns arrived, he tried to block a 2011 silver Ford Fusion that was leaving the complex.
The Fusion, driven by Rogers, didn’t try to hit the officer and Burns was standing at the rear of his patrol vehicle, Howard said. Burns had no information describing Rogers as a threat and no way to identify Rogers as the man the off-duty officer had reported, Howard said.
But Burns fired one shot into the side of Rogers’ vehicle, hitting Rogers in the head, Howard said.
Burns violated Rogers’ civil rights by using excessive and deadly force and failing to grant him due process, the lawsuit says.
The police department and Turner “have maintained a system of review of police conduct which is so untimely and cursory as to be ineffective and to permit and tolerate the unreasonable excessive and deadly use of force by police officers,” the lawsuit says.
Officers are routinely allowed to violate the department’s policies and procedures, and the department has failed to properly train and discipline them, the lawsuit says.