David Hartman's death at the hands of Highland Park police back in June was weird.
For starters, there was the shooting itself. The 32-year-old had already been searched and was handcuffed in the back of the squad car when police say he managed to pull out a handgun and shoot out one of the rear windows. Officers returned fire as he tried to escape through the opening. It was the first fatal officer-involved shooting in the town's history.
Odd, too, was the sequence of events that preceded his entry into the squad car. It was early evening, about 6:30 p.m., when Highland Park police received a call from a woman complaining that a man on a motorcycle was following her. By the time they found the motorcycle, it was parked at a shoe store next to SMU, where Hartman was reportedly acting strangely. The cops tried to question him as he returned to the motorcycle, but he struggled and tried to flee.
Only later did police realize that the motorcycle was stolen and that Hartman, who had a couple of drug convictions and one for evading arrest, had an outstanding warrant.
The intervening months have done nothing to make the shooting any less weird. Perhaps the investigation, which was turned over to the Dallas County Sheriff's Office and which we've requested a copy of, will help with that. (Update on August 30: Highland Park police spokesman Lance Koppa says the sheriff's office has not yet completed its investigation and declined to comment). Until then, we have the allegations contained in a wrongful death lawsuit to add another wrinkle.
The suit, filed in federal court on Thursday by several of Hartman's family members, says that officers shot him as he started to run away, twice in the back, once in the leg. As he lay face-down on the ground, they allege that one of the officers fired another round, maybe more, into his body.
The family argues that the officers overreacted to the threat posed by Hartman, who "had no plans to do anything other than flee with a firearm." In doing so, they violated his constitutional and civil rights. They're demanding at least $1 million in damages.
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