The Little Rock Police Department will face continued scrutiny of its use of deadly force with the filing of a federal civil lawsuit Monday. The family James Hartsfield claims the officer used excessive force and that the city is also responsible for failing to properly train its officers.
In October 2017, Officer Brittany Gunn, while in uniform but serving as an off-duty security guard at a local bar, killed Hartsfield. He was shot after refusing to get out of his vehicle during a suspected DWI stop. The lawsuit questions the use of force as well as the procedures used by the officer that lead to the shooting. Plaintiff's attorney Mike Laux claims the department has been negligent in training officers and in disciplining officers involved in shootings.
"I think there’s a huge problem with misconduct at the police department," Laux said during a press conference. "I think there's a problem with police-involved shootings. I have yet to see one that really passes, full boat passes the smell test. But, for this case, we have a 'failure to train' claim which is going to be very, very narrow, and it's about failures of police training in traffic stops."
The lawsuit describes several traffic stops in the last decade by Little Rock police officers in which deadly force was used. The officer, City of Little Rock and the bar where the incident involving Hartsfield took place are also named as negligent in the lawsuit.
Gun was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by prosecutors last year.
City Attorney Tom Carpenter responded to a request for comment by saying:
This office has not seen a complaint, and so could not comment in good faith even if it wished to do so. However, unlike some legal counsel, we do not try cases in the news media and would not comment anyway.