CLEVELAND — The family of an unarmed man fatally shot by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and their three children at the end of a high-speed chase sued the officer, his supervisors and the city that employs them in federal court Thursday.
The estate of Roy Evans Jr. claimed in the lawsuit that Strongsville police supervisors at the scene along Interstate 71 in Medina Township failed to stop officer Jason Miller, who had been involved in previous police shootings, from rushing toward Evans’ immobilized van and opening fire less than five seconds after he exited his cruiser in March 2017.
A grand jury cleared Miller of criminal wrongdoing.
Messages seeking comment from Strongsville’s law director about the lawsuit weren’t returned Thursday.
The shooting occurred after a chase that began with a Strongsville officer attempting to pull over Evans’ van for not having its headlights on.
Ohio Highway Patrol troopers joined a chase that reached speeds of 100 mph. Despite the use of stop sticks to flatten the van’s tires in the southbound lanes of I-71, the 37-year-old Evans continued driving.
The chase ended when officers surrounded the van with their cruisers. Despite a supervisor’s orders that police take cover, Miller and another officer rushed toward the van with their weapons drawn, the lawsuit said. Miller began firing within a second of opening the van’s driver’s side door, according to an investigative report by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Miller told investigators he was afraid Evans was going to “back up and pin” him. Dashcam video showed that Miller was standing to the side of the van and not in its path. Miller told investigators he shot Evans when he saw Evans’ right hand drop out of view.
“I thought for sure he was going for a gun,” Miller said. “The thought process was so fast to try and get to the draw before he did.”
Officers later discovered Evans’ hand was reaching toward rolls of carpet stuffed between the driver’s and passenger’s seat.
Miller shot Evans again about 2 seconds after the first shot, the BCI report said. Miller told investigators it was because Evans’ hand dropped further out of sight. Evans’ girlfriend told investigators he didn’t stop because he was on parole and didn’t have a license. She said Evans was returning from a carpet job the night he was killed.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages for civil rights violations, wrongful death and wanton and reckless conduct.