In Little Rock tenant's killing, 2 settle with son
Civil trial nears for 2 officers; complex, owner dismissed
As a May 9 trial date draws near for two Little Rock police officers accused of violating a man's civil rights when he was shot and killed inside his Little Rock apartment in late 2010, a notice filed Wednesday says the apartment complex and its owner have settled their part of the case.
That leaves only the officers, Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis, as defendants in the jury trial that is to begin a week from Monday before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller.
The notice filed jointly by the plaintiff, Troy Ellison; the Big Country Chateau apartment complex just west of University Avenue on Colonel Glenn Drive; and City Attorney Tom Carpenter doesn't offer any details of the settlement. However, it states that the dismissal of the case is conditioned on "the satisfactory completion of specified terms that cannot be performed within 45 days of the date of the settlement, including but not limited to approval of the settlement by the Probate Department."
Attorneys for the plaintiff and the apartment complex couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Lesher shot and killed Eugene Ellison, 67, on Dec. 9, 2010, after she and McCrillis, who were working off-duty as security guards for the apartment complex, saw Ellison's apartment door ajar and a glass table broken and went inside. After Ellison asked them to leave him alone, a struggle ensued in which the officers said they feared for their lives, prompting Lesher to shoot.
Ellison's son, Troy Ellison, who is also a Little Rock police officer, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2011 against the officers, the city and the apartment complex.
Last fall, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the city's claim that Lesher was entitled to "qualified immunity" on a claim that she used excessive force, but the appeals court granted immunity to McCrillis, who still faces liability on an allegation of illegal entry. Miller had earlier refused to grant either officer immunity on the deadly force claim.
Qualified immunity shields officers from being sued for performing their duties unless their conduct "clearly violated a clearly established right of which a reasonable official would have known."
Miller set the May 9 trial date earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the city's appeal of the 8th Circuit ruling, returning the case to his jurisdiction.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
By Linda Satter