WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The relatives of an innocent man who was killed by police at his home following a hoax emergency call have filed two new lawsuits in state and federal courts.
Police officers killed Andrew Finch on Dec. 28, 2017, in Wichita. A prankster had called 911 with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch's home, and he was shot when he opened the door to his house.
A state lawsuit filed Monday seeks more than $75,000 in damages on behalf of Finch’s two children.
Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, and her boyfriend, Ali Abdelhadi, filed a federal lawsuit the same day accusing four Wichita police officers of violating their constitutional rights by detaining and arresting them after the shooting. They also are seeking more than $75,000 in damages, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“To me, it’s not about the money — I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to convince anybody — It’s about accountability,” said Lisa Finch. “Police officers make a career out of holding people accountable. They’re not above the law. When they do wrong, they can be held accountable as well.”
Wichita’s law director, Jennifer Magana, said the city couldn’t discuss pending litigation and would not say whether the officers will be represented by the city. The city and the police department are not defendants in either lawsuit.
Officer Justin Rapp, who fired the shot that killed Finch, is a defendant in the state case but is not named in the federal lawsuit.
The state lawsuit says Rapp and his then-supervisor, Sgt. Benjamin Jonker, were negligent in their response to the prank call and that negligence led to Finch’s death. The lawsuit was filed by Tawny Unruh, the mother of Finch’s two young children.
The federal lawsuit alleges that four police officers violated the constitutional rights of Finch and Abdelhadi by arresting and detaining them after the shooting. The officers forced the occupants out of the house in handcuffs, “held them against their wills without appropriate clothing in 24-degree weather, and then transported them to the Wichita Police Department and interrogated them for over an hour before releasing them without explanation,” according to the lawsuit.
Abdelhadi feared for his life during the shooting because he and Andrew Finch went to the door to investigate the sound of a car in the alley near the house, Lisa Finch said, adding that Abdelhadi was close to Finch when he was shot and thought he would be shot next.
District Attorney Marc Bennett has said he will not file criminal charges against Rapp, who remains a member of the police force. He is suing the city, claiming $31,450 in lost wages because he was barred from working an off-duty security job after killing Finch.
Authorities have said the hoax call — known as “swatting” and made with the intention of sending SWAT teams to a nonexistent emergency — resulted from a dispute between two online gamers over a $1.50 bet and that Finch lived at the old address of one of the gamers. Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for making the call and other crimes.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com