In October 2013, Clint Peterson was shot to death by a Duncanville Police Department officer. Now his family has filed a lawsuit in federal court against three unnamed officers who responded to the call that ultimately lead to his death. Other defendants named in the suit are Duncanville Police Chief Robert Brown, the City of Duncanville and Dallas County.
Peterson was killed by police while running away, as we reported in 2013. Police confirmed that but few other details in the weeks following his death. "Preliminary reports indicate that shots were fired during a foot chase," the police department said in a statement shortly afterward.
His family maintains that Peterson only tried to get away from the officers but never threatened them. "At all points during the encounter, Peterson acted defensively--attempting at all times to withdraw from his encounter rather than engage," the suit says.
With few official details released about the case, the only witnesses who have spoken to us about his death are the three women who called the police on him -- his on-again, off-again girlfriend, the girlfriend's daughter and his sister. The women all lived together, and they told us last year that Peterson had showed up to their house the day of his death uninvited, hoping to talk to the girlfriend. A mechanic, Peterson had messed with some switches in the girlfriend's car so that she'd have to call him back to fix it, she said, so she decided to call the cops to report him. He was already walking away from the house, the women said, when police officers on motorcycles showed up, shot a Taser at Peterson without any provocation and then fired at him as he tried to run off.
The Duncanville Police Department has repeatedly declined to discuss specifics of the case, but an attorney for the officers spoke to us after a grand jury voted to no-bill the three officers who responded to the call this September. According to the attorney, Peterson was shot by police because he pointed "what they believed to be a real gun at them."
The three women had told us previously that Peterson sometimes kept a toy gun on him, and that they had warned the dispatcher about it in the 911 call. But the women said they never saw Peterson point the toy at police that day, and they aren't sure if he even had it on him.
An autopsy report released by the Dallas County Medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, indicating that he died from a gunshot to the right side of his head, directly behind his ear. No weapons of any kind appear to have been recovered by his body, based on the autopsy.
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The suit, embedded below, was filed by one of the witnesses, Peterson's sister Melissa, along with Peterson's ex-wife Kristine on behalf of their daughter and his mother Sherry Horne:
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.