Porter estate sues patrolman, city in fatal shooting
June 02, 2010 @ 11:20 PM
HUNTINGTON -- Those administering the estate of a man killed by a police officer have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Huntington and its Police Patrolman Ronnie Lusk.
The patrolman fatally wounded Joe Porter as he and fellow officers responded to an exchange of gunfire Nov. 8, 2009, that injured three others outside of Club Babylon, then located at 831 4th Ave.
The lawsuit alleges the Huntington Police Department "has had a custom or policy, to use unnecessary and/or excessive force." It further alleges that police intimidated witnesses and made false statements in a "cover-up" of events leading to Porter's death.
Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook, in responding to the filing, relied upon his department's investigation and last month's grand jury decision to exonerate Lusk.
"I'm certain there is no wrongdoing on the city's part," Holbrook said. "When we do things the right way, follow policy and procedure and the law, we will absolutely defend our self."
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Its allegations and the police investigation stand at odds.
The lawsuit alleges that Lusk turned his weapon on Porter without provocation and for no apparent reason.
The police investigation, as stated at a press conference last month, found that Lusk justifiably fired in response to Porter pointing a .45 caliber handgun toward the patrolman. It also found that officers recovered a gun believed to have belonged to Porter at the scene.
The lawsuit charges police failed to seek timely medical treatment. It alleges Lusk shot Porter and then ran out of the bar. Other officers then handcuffed Porter's bleeding body after it had slumped to the floor, the lawsuit states.
"After which, he was left bleeding on the floor while defendant Lusk and/or other officers ... restrained, threatened and/or intimidated witnesses," the lawsuit states.
Holbrook said at last month's press conference that his officers could not say with certainty that Porter had been hit and incapacitated until they turned him over. He said they handcuffed Porter as a precaution so others would know he had been eliminated as a threat.
Additionally, the Police Department has said an ambulance crew arrived at the bar at 3:14 a.m., 8 minutes and 27 minutes following the 3:06 a.m. initial report. The ambulance arrived at the hospital at 3:33 a.m.
The administrators' attorney, Patrick S. Cassidy of Wheeling, W.Va., described the shooting as one event in a larger atmosphere of city police using excessive force and providing uncritical support to those who engage in such conduct.
Furthermore, it alleges deliberate indifference to training, supervision, discipline and hiring, along with an indifferent failure to adopt policies necessary to prevent constitutional violations. It charges those issues were the "moving force" that allowed for Porter's death.
The lawsuit charges defendants violated Porter's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.
The co-adminstrators, Latoya Hackett and Porter's grandmother Betty Jo Radford, seek a trial by jury.
A response on the defendants' behalf had not been filed as of Wednesday.
Lusk returned to full duty work 16 days after the shooting. Last month, Holbrook described Lusk as an "outstanding police officer who has received several commendations for his actions in the line of duty."
The case is Hackett and Radford v. Lusk and city of Huntington, 3:10-cv-781.