On June 2, John Husband III was shot in the back by a Dallas police officer during a traffic stop at the Timber Oaks apartment complex in Central Oak Cliff.
That much is clear. Exactly what precipitated the shooting remains in dispute.
Witnesses who were in the car with Husband told news outlets at the time that Officer Leland Limbaugh shot the 21-year-old in cold blood as he tried to flee. Police said Husband was reaching for the gun tucked in his waistband when Limbaugh pulled the trigger. During a press conference several days later, DPD Chief David Brown lashed out at the media, blaming them for sensationalizing the story and calling their coverage of the shooting "irresponsible." Now, more than six months later, the family is suing the city and Limbaugh in federal court.
The suit was filed in county district court at the end of November but was removed to federal court yesterday. It was filed by Husband's parents, John Husband Jr. and Latonya Jackson, and his girlfriend, 19-year-old Amber Gurley. His one-year-old son, John Husband IV, is also named as a plaintiff.
The sequence of events as described by the suit goes like this: Husband was driving along Folklore Trail at around 5:30 p.m. When he saw Limbaugh's lights flashing behind him, he dutifully pulled into the Timber Oaks complex and into a parking space. Limbaugh, who said in an affidavit that he made the stop after Husband failed to signal his turn into the apartments, emerged from his squad car and approached with gun drawn and aimed at Husband. Limbaugh then ordered Husband out of the car with his hands up and attempted to place him under arrest. It was only at that point that Husband began to resist asking "What did I do?" Leland told him to "Shut your bitch ass up."
"At this point," the suit continues, "Mr. Husband snatched his right hand free, turned to the right and started to run. According to the witness, he was not carrying a weapon. His back was facing Defendant Limbaugh and Defendant Limbaugh maliciously shot Mr. Husband in the back. Per this witness, Defendant Limbaugh did not find a weapon on Mr. Husband until minutes later after Mr. Husband was shot and lying on the ground."
As Husband lay on the ground, bleeding, the suit says that Limbaugh ordered him to "get your hands up or I'll shoot you again."
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The family members claim that Limbaugh showed "willful and wanton disregard" for Husband's rights. Moreover, they say this was standard procedure for DPD.
"At the time of John Husband III's assault and killing, there was a widespread practice among the City of Dallas police officers to use whatever force they desired to seize and/or arrest a suspect as well as to use excessive force and seizure in custodial situations," the suit states. "The practice was so widespread as to constitute the policy and custom of the City itself."
The version of events laid out by Dallas police in the wake of the shooting is somewhat different. Limbaugh felt the weapon, a fully loaded .40 caliber handgun, as he was attempting to make the arrest. He only fired when he saw Husband reach for it, then took the handgun and placed it on his squad car until backup arrived.
In their response to the lawsuit, the city and Limbaugh reiterate much of this in making the case that Limbaugh's use of force was justified. They categorically deny that Husband's rights were violated or that Limbaugh acted negligently. But that, of course, will be up to a jury to decide.