The family of an unarmed black driver fatally shot by a white police officer in suburban Cleveland filed a federal civil rights lawsuit agains the City of Euclid, its police department and two officers involved.
Lawyers for 23-year-old Luke Stewart filed the lawsuit in Northern District Court on Monday.
The plaintiffs allege that Euclid police officer Matthew Rhodes used unjustified force when he shot Stewart five times on the morning of March 13. The suit argues Euclid is responsible for policies and practices that led to Stewart's death, which further inflamed the city's racial tensions.
Sarah Gelsomino, a lawyer for Stewart’s family, said the lawsuit is also meant to show a pattern of excessive force at the Euclid Police Department.
“We’ll have an opportunity to receive discovery from lots of supervisors and trainers about policies and training, curriculum, how officers are disciplined, how civilian complaints are handled," Gelsomino said.
In the March incident, Rhodes and his partner, Louis Catalani, were responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle. They found Stewart was in the car, idling on a residential street. Stewart began driving away when the officers arrived. Rhodes got in the car, where he shot Stewart, who was unarmed.
In August, a grand jury declined to charge Rhodes. That same month, cell phone video showed another Euclid officer violently arresting a black motorist who did not appear to be resisting.
During a press conference Monday outside Euclid City Hall, Stewart’s mother, Mary Stewart, became emotional as she described the challenge of getting over her son’s death.
“And it’s just so unfair. It’s just so unreal," Stewart said. "I can’t believe it. I ask myself everyday, ‘Is this real? Did this really happen? Why? Why?’”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.