WEST MEMPHIS, AR - The mother of a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by West Memphis police las month is seeking $225 million in damages in a wrongful death suit filed in federal court.
West Memphis officials say DeAuntae Farrow was killed June 22 by a shot from the gun of officer Erik Sammis. DeAuntae's mother, Debra Farrow, named Sammis as a defendant in the suit filed yesterday, along with fellow officer Jimmy Ellis, Police Bob Paudert, Mayor William Johnson, and the city itself. Paudert, however, said the officer with Sammis the night of the shooting was Jimmy Evans, not Jimmy Ellis.
Officials say DeAuntae was outside playing with a friend while police were in a car on a stakeout at an adjacent apartment complex. Police have said the boys ran by, yelling, and officers told them to stop. Police say Sammons fired when it appeared Farrow was holding a weapon and moved. Police say the boy had a toy gun, but the boy's family has disputed that.
DeAuntae's death is being investigated by both Arkansas State Police and the FBI.
Only one of the four people named as defendants could be reached for comment after business hours last night. Chief Paudert, however, declined comment, saying the suit would be turned over to lawyers for the Arkansas Municipal League, which will defend the city officials, and any comment would have to come from the leauge.
According to the suit, when Sammis was hired by the Police Dept. in February 1996, he already had a job history that showed, "propsensities for violence and insubordination." The suit says that, after his hiring, Sammis was repeatedly disciplined for various questionable acts of misfeasance or malfeasance and was the target of several citizen complaints. But the suit claims that Paudert, Johnson and the city took no action to protect the citizens of West Memphis from what the suit was was Sammis's propensity for unrestrained and unjustified violence.
The suit seeks $100 million in compensatory damages plus $25 million in punitive damages from each of the five defendants.