Pineville police shot man who put down gun and ‘did what I was told to do,’ lawsuit says
After the Pineville police shot at Timothy Kümmel several times over the past year, they rushed to the bleeding and temporarily paralyzed suspect and ordered him to raise his hands.
According to a bodycam video from one of the officers, Kümmel told them that he could not follow because he could not feel anything. Then he asked the officers the same question over and over again: Why was he shot?
“I just did as I was told. You said to drop it, "said Caraway, screaming in pain. “I went down on the floor. Why did you shoot me ... Please don't let me die. "
Kümmel, 23 at the time, survived. When he was released from the hospital, Pineville police charged him with eight crimes, including four cases of assaulting a police officer for allegedly aiming his gun at the four officers who confronted him on February 1, 2020.
This charge was quickly dropped by the Mecklenburg District Public Prosecutor's Office because a public prosecutor described in a court file as insufficient evidence, particularly with regard to Caraway's intentions. At this point, Kümmel had already been in custody for a month.
Now, Caraway's new lawsuit filed Thursday flips the narrative of the shooting with a series of explosive allegations against the Pineville police:
That two policemen shot Caraway while he was on one knee and obeyed orders to put down the gun he was carrying in the right pocket of his coat. These police continued firing after the wounded Kümmel lay helpless on the sidewalk.
The officers then conspired to justify what they did by fabricating evidence to put Caraway in prison, the lawsuit said.
Caraway attorney, Micheal Littlejohn von Charlotte, said his client was "trapped in a fatal game of 'Simon Says'" in which the armed police rushed after him, gave him multiple and contradicting orders, then opened fire within seconds opened up and kept shooting until one of their colleagues yells at them to stop.
The senior officer that day, Sgt. Nicholas French later told state investigators that he did not fire his gun because Caraway never raised or extended his pistol threateningly, the lawsuit said. According to the report, a witness to the shooting also said that Kümmel did nothing to trigger the use of deadly force by the police.
"The police excession is unspeakable," Littlejohn told the Observer on Friday. “My client did not commit a crime that day. Period. And that happened. "
Caraway's lawsuit, filed in Mecklenburg County, names the city of Pineville along with police officers Adam Roberts, Jamon Griffin, Leslie Gladden and French.
Roberts and Griffin fired the shots. Griffin, a former Hickory police officer who had been in the Pineville Department for less than a month at the time of the shooting, pulled the trigger nine times, according to the complaint. Roberts fired three times, including the first shot that hit Caraway in the neck and dropped him face first on the cement, the lawsuit says.
Griffin and caraway are black. Glad French and Roberts are white.
The lawsuit accuses the city and police officers of, among other things, excessive violence, malicious persecution, falsification of evidence and false arrest.
Pineville city manager Ryan Spitzer on Friday referred requests for comment to city attorney Scott MacLatchie, who did not respond to an observer email.
Police Chief Michael Hudgins did not respond to a phone call from Observer asking for an interview for this story. When police released a video of the shooting in March, Hudgins had confirmed that, according to WCNC, Kümmel first raised his hands when he was confronted by his officers.
The boss also told reporters that it was "plausible" that the police initially mistook Caraway's cell phone for a handgun. He said his officers opened fire when Caraway reached into his pockets where he was actually carrying a gun.
Drop your gun
Caraway's lawsuit joins a list of other active civil lawsuits against the police, in which residents of the Charlotte area were shot dead with firearms in controversial circumstances - at least two fatal.
▪ Rubin Galindo's widow alleged in a 2019 lawsuit that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had used “paramilitary tactics” two years earlier to fatally shoot their long-term partner. Galindo had called the police that night and told them he was about to surrender his pistol and was shot when he walked through the door of his house with arms raised and gun in hand. The case is due to be heard in September.
▪ In March 2019, Danquir's Franklin was fatally shot and killed in the parking lot of a Burger King in West Charlotte during a police standoff when he was apparently lowering his gun as ordered. Franklin's mother later sued. A trial is planned for November.
The confrontation on North Polk Street in the small town of Pineville began with a phone call.
At around 10 a.m., a driver called 911 to report that she had seen a black man with long dreadlocks and a tan jacket with a gun walking down one of the city's main streets.
According to the lawsuit, Caraway went up the Polk that morning to visit his grandmother, unaware that the police were now pouring towards him and loading several assault rifles as they approached.
Roberts, according to the complaint, arrived first. The other officers soon followed. Two had their body-worn cameras either turned off or not activated, an apparent violation of the department's guidelines, the lawsuit said.
The video from Roberts' camera shows the officer walking after Caraway while other officers flank him. Within a few seconds, a series of police orders are shouted out. Caraway comes into view for a moment, either kneeling on the ground or right next to it. What he does with his hands is unclear. Then the shooting begins.
The police flock to Kümmel while he screams in pain, as the video shows. When the police tried to slow the bleeding of caraway seeds, one of the officers told the wounded man that he shouldn't have reached for his pockets. Kümmel said he only obeyed police orders.
State and federal law allow the police to use deadly force only when they reasonably perceive an imminent threat of death or serious injury to themselves, other officers, or bystanders.
Phil Stinson, professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University and a frequent critic of police tactics, watched the video at the observer's request and said it was "inconclusive" whether the police used excessive force.
In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, Littlejohn said the caraway shots were another example of police using excessive force against black citizens.
"Black people in this country are aware of the danger that police checks pose to the lives of black people," he said.
"Mr. Caraway - a victim of excessive violence - is trying his best to deal with the incident and continues to receive treatment for his injuries."
Kümmel suffered gunshot wounds to the shoulder, chest, wrist and at least one finger. Littlejohn said his client still had fragments of spheres that he would carry for the rest of his life.
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