ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The family of Iraq veteran Kenneth Ellis III, who was fatally shot by police last year, has filed a civil rights complaint against two officers who were at the scene.
The suit names Albuquerque Police Department detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba and Officer Trey Economidy as defendants.
That is on top of a previous wrongful death lawsuit in the case, which was filed against APD as a whole.
Lampiris-Tremba shot Ellis outside a Northeast Albuquerque convenience store in January 2010. Ellis was holding a gun to his own head when he was shot.
Police have described the shooting as “suicide by cop,” and Lampiris-Tremba has been cleared of wrongdoing by both APD Internal Affairs and a Bernalillo County grand jury. A police spokeswoman said Monday the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Attorney Shannon Kennedy, who filed the suit, said a key difference between the first lawsuit and the one filed Monday is that the new suit alleges Ellis was discriminated against as a mentally ill person. Ellis had post-traumatic stress disorder due to his service in Iraq.
Economidy did not fire at the scene, but he had pulled over the car Ellis was driving and allegedly pointed his gun at the car’s occupants. Police followed Ellis’ car from the home of a known car thief, and allegedly pulled him over because his license plate did not match the car. Ellis’ family disputes that claim, saying the plate was legal.
According to the lawsuit, pointing guns at the car constituted “excessive force” and triggered Ellis’ PTSD, causing him to leave the car and bring a gun to his head.
Kennedy said Monday mentally ill people are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that officers had a responsibility to consider Ellis’ special needs.
“The Defendants’ use of excessive force on individuals suffering from mental impairment, especially veterans of wars, has a disparate impact on those individuals as they are less able to follow orders issued at gunpoint,” Kennedy wrote in the suit.
Economidy became the subject of public scrutiny in February, after he fatally shot Jacob Mitschelen in the back near San Pedro and Kathryn SE. It was discovered that Economidy listed “human waste disposal” as his job description on the social networking site Facebook. That began a string of revelations about officers’ postings on such websites, and prompted APD to adopt a social networking policy.
Kennedy said Monday she will ask for access to both officers’ social networking as part of the new lawsuit.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal
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