Family says man was unarmed when fatally shot by police

Annie Cosby Nov. 26, 2014, 12:58pm

The family and friend of a Harris County man are suing over claims he was unarmed when he was fatally shot by police officers allegedly using excessive force in his arrest.

Shirley Francis, individually and as representative of the estate of Gerrit Perkins, and Bridget Neriz filed a lawsuit Oct. 16 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against the Harris County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Harris County and Deputy Charles Gbunblee and two Deputy John Does, individually and in their official capacities, citing excessive use of force.

According to the complaint, on Oct. 17, 2012, Gbunblee and two other officers went to the residence of Neriz, a close friend of Perkins', to arrest him on a felony warrant charging him with aggravated assault of a family member.

The complaint states Gbunblee approached Neriz with his gun drawn and inquired about Perkins' presence, and she lied and told the officer he was not inside the residence.

According to the lawsuit the officers knew of Perkins' presence from neighbors, used expletives to speak about Neriz, entered the residence and told her to remain in the living room while they searched the home.

The lawsuit states Neriz heard a gunshot shortly after Gbunblee entered her bedroom and when she ran to see what happened, she was thrown to the ground and handcuffed while expletives were used toward her.

Neriz says she was put in a police vehicle and more than an hour elapsed before medical personnel arrived and Perkins was removed from the home on a stretcher and taken away in an emergency vehicle.

The lawsuit states Perkins died shortly after his delayed arrival at a medical center. The complaint states Neriz was left in the police vehicle for several hours before being released, and when she entered her home there was blood in the closet in which Perkins was found and it appeared his body had been dragged to the living room.

According to the lawsuit, no weapon was found on Perkins or in the residence, and Perkins was clearly unarmed, wearing only shorts when he died from a single gunshot wound to the back.

The defendants are accused of excessive use of force in shooting Perkins, denying Perkins essential medical attention, wrongful death, peace officer liability and ordinary and gross negligence. The defendants are also accused of assault, false imprisonment, false arrest, and civil conspiracy in their treatment of Neriz.

Harris County Sheriff's Office and Harris County are cited for failing to properly train officers and overlooking or covering up officer misconduct. Francis is suing for wrongful death and loss of companionship.

Francis and Neriz seek damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and costs of court.

They are represented by attorney Todd E. Webb of The Webb Law Firm in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number: 4:14-CV-02943

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