The mother and three children of Ahmede Bradley, who was shot and killed by an Austin police officer in 2012, have sued the city and the officer.
Attorney Bobby Taylor filed the suit in federal court Tuesday, alleging that officer Eric Copeland used excessive force, and that the city has failed to discipline and provide its officers with adequate policies, practices and procedures.
Officials say Copeland shot Bradley after the 37-year-old tried to choke the officer with the cord of his police radio. The confrontation started when Copeland stopped Bradley for playing loud music from his car and tried to search the vehicle after smelling marijuana, according to officials. Bradley drove off and then fled on foot near Overbrook Drive in East Austin, where the men struggled after Copeland caught up.
The callers in two 911 recordings that the department released told operators that they were watching what appeared to be a life-or-death struggle and that a man was trying to take a police officer’s gun.
“Should I go help him? It looks like he is about to be hurt,” one caller said. “He needs help. He’s about to pull the gun off of him!”
In the lawsuit, though, Taylor says that Bradley was defending himself from a police officer who was trying to kill him.
When Copeland caught up with Bradley, the lawsuit says the officer “immediately began to violently strike him” and kept doing so even when Bradley was trying to comply with Copeland’s orders and get down on the ground. As Copeland continued to punch and kick Bradley, he also was yelling that he was going to kill him, the lawsuit says, and Bradley started to defend himself.
“(Bradley) continuously pleaded to end the assault and told (Copeland) several times that ‘I’ll let go if you stop!’ but … Copeland continued trying to cause serious bodily injury to (Bradley),” the lawsuit says.
Footage from Copeland’s dashboard camera doesn’t show the men fighting but his microphone captures heavy breathing, grunting and other sounds indicative of a scuffle. As he first starts to chase Bradley on foot, he can he heard repeatedly telling Bradley to get on the ground and, at one point, threatening to shoot him.
Copeland told investigators that Bradley was on top of him, trying to choke him with the radio cord, according to officials, and that as he rolled on his side to try to protect his gun he was able to kick Bradley away from him.
When Bradley started coming back toward him, Copeland shot the man three times in the chest, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said in August, as she discussed the grand jury’s decision to not indict Copeland on criminal charges in connection with the fatal incident.
Bradley’s family is seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages including emotional pain, mental anguish and because Bradley won’t be able to provide for his family financially.
In a statement, the city said Wednesday that officials learned about the lawsuit through the media and had not yet received it.
“We of course are familiar with the incident and we are prepared to defend the city and the actions of its officers,” the statement says.