Casper, Police, Academy Sued by Mother of Man Shot Last Year
The mother of a man shot by two police officers exactly one year ago has sued the City of Casper, the Police Department, the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, and the two officers for his wrongful death, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Linda Lennen, mother of 36-year-old Douglas Oneyear, claims the city, police department and the academy created the policies that enabled officers Jonathan Schlager and Cody Meyers to shoot him in east Casper, according to the complaint filed by Lennen's attorney Todd Hambrick of Casper.
"Plaintiff alleges that The Officers in this case were plainly incompetent and knowingly violated the law when they caused Douglas Oneyear's unwarranted and excruciating physical and mental anguish and death," according to the complaint.
Lennen claims the officers denied Oneyear his right to be free from the use of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, the city and the academy failed to property train the officers, and they caused his wrongful death.
She is seeking damages jointly and severally from the defendants for pain and suffering, mental anguish, funeral and burial expenses, loss of Oneyear's service and future earnings, attorneys fees, and other damages.
Casper City Attorney John Henley said he had not seen the lawsuit, but was surprised to learn of it.
"I didn't think an attorney would file this claim," Henley said.
"I've seen the video from the convenience store, as well as heard the audio from the lady who encountered Mr. Oneyear prior to his encounter with our police officers," he said. "Of course, I saw the video of the police officers interact with Mr. Oneyear. So I was truly shocked to hear that somebody would follow through with this."
Brian Brooks, deputy director of the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas, said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
The case started on the night of Feb. 26, 2018, when two officers responded to a threatening call at the Loaf 'n Jug, 1510 Centennial Court.
The female clerk told dispatch a man, later identified as Oneyear, came into the store wielding a sword and had threatened her. He physically assaulted her and then left the store. The clerk did not receive any injuries requiring immediate medical attention, according to court records.
About 11:39 p.m., officers confronted Oneyear several hundred yards away from the store. He was wielding a sword in the 3800 block of East 15th Street.
During the confrontation, officers fired their guns at Oneyear, and gave medical attention to him, but he died at the scene.
The case was turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. The uninjured officers were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
In April, Police Chief Keith McPheeters said the officers, who had returned to work, acted lawfully and appropriately, and no charges would be filed.
The Police Department also released video of the incident during which officers yelled at Oneyear to drop the sword, but he kept walking to them and they opened fire.
Using less-than-lethal force was not an option for the officers, a police statement said.
Former District Attorney Mike Blonigen said later that officers faced a "suicide by cop situation" and had no choice but to shoot Oneyear, who had mental illness and substance abuse issues.
Meanwhile, Oneyear's family through Hambrick said he was carrying a toy sword and didn't pose a threat that required deadly force.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Lennen said her son was diagnosed at a young age with various mental issues, took medication for them, and developed an attachment to items including the toy sword that was a replica from the movie "The Highlander."
Oneyear frightened the clerk at the convenience store, so he went behind the counter to get his own cigarettes and got tangled in some wires, according to the lawsuit. The clerk was shaken up but unharmed.
He was walking the two blocks to his residence at the Quail Run Apartments. Schlager pulled his police car to block the sidewalk in front of him, and Meyers pulled behind him, according to the complaint.
Oneyear started walking in the street around the front fender of Schlager's car in a nonthreatening manner with his arms at his sides.
"Within seconds of exiting their patrol cars both Officer Schlager and Officer Meyers open fire on Douglas and killed him right there in the street. The Officers have testified in internal investigations that they were acting as they had been trained," according to Lennen's complaint.
The officers did not consider using nonlethal force against a man whose arms were at his side, and they could have subdued him easily without harming him, according to the complaint.
Neither the Academy nor the Casper Police Department provided adequate training to the officers, according to the complaint.
"Upon information and belief, the CPD has not implemented policies and procedures to aggressively curtail death and/or injuries as a result of the improper use of deadly force. The CPD has provided grossly inadequate, reckless and dangerous techniques that practically mandate the use of deadly force with negligible training given in the use of non-lethal force in situations such as that which occurred in this case."