A former Arizona police officer who fatally shot a man in a motorized wheelchair during a suspected shoplifting incident last year was accused Monday of excessive force in a federal lawsuit.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, lawyers for the family of Richard Lee Richards, 61, said they were seeking to hold former Tucson police officer Ryan Remington accountable for firing nine shots outside a Lowe’s on Nov. 29 in what the suit describes as a slow-moving encounter that could have been resolved without lethal force.
“Mr. Remington’s actions caused deep sorrow, anguish, and trauma to Mr. Richards’ family,” lawyer John Bradley said in a statement. “The constitutional violations here are obvious and they are on video.”
The suit also alleged wrongful death and accused the city of Tucson of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The city failed to modify police department policies to ensure that officers interact appropriately with people like Richards, who had a broken hip and was using a wheelchair when he was fatally struck, the suit claims.
Remington had been on a special security assignment at a Walmart south of downtown Tucson when the shooting occurred, according to the suit. Shortly before 6 p.m., an employee told him that Richards, who was in a motorized wheelchair, had stolen a tool set and left, the suit says.
When Remington and the employee confronted Richards in the parking lot, he responded by saying, “Here’s my receipt,” and he brandished a knife, according to the suit.
The employee returned to the store and Richards took off, tossing the tool set on the ground and heading across the shopping center parking lot toward the Lowe’s, the suit says.
Remington followed Richards for several minutes, alerting a dispatcher who said an officer with a “less lethal” weapon was en route.
As Richards approached an entrance to the Lowe’s, Remington could be seen in body camera video telling Richards to stop. Seconds later, Remington opened fire, striking him eight times, according to the suit.
After he fired eight times, Remington paused and then fired a ninth shot — which the suit described as evidence of his “depraved” state of mind.
When the video was released in December, former Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said the shooting was a “clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force and training.”
The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Remington could not be reached for comment, and his lawyer, Mike Storie, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Storie has said Remington opened fire after he “perceived a threat” to a Lowe’s employee. Speaking to NBC affiliate KVOA in August, Storie described the manslaughter charge as a “legal fiction” and said the charge “doesn’t fit.”