The family of an armed and suicidal man shot to death by Rising Sun police last May filed a $30 million federal lawsuit against the officers and town this week, alleging they violated his civil rights with their hasty recourse to deadly force.
James D. Meadows was agitated and had spoken of death when he grabbed a gun at his father’s house, prompting his stepmother to call the police in hope that officers could calm him and get him help, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
“In his distraught state of mind, James desperately needed the assistance of police officers who knew how to exercise restraint and how to interact with an emotionally unstable person,” the family’s lead attorney, Jeffrey E. Nusinov, stated in the complaint. “Instead, Rising Sun sent a firing squad.”
Nusinov is with Nusinov Smith LLP in Baltimore.
The family claims Meadows was pointing the gun at neither the police nor his housemates when the firing started and continued even after he went down. The officers’ first reaction was to handcuff the dying Meadows before seeking medical aid, the complaint stated.
Meadow’s mother, father, son and daughter seek $15 million in compensatory damages and another $15 million in punitive damages.
Neither the town’s attorney, Jack A. Gullo Jr., nor its administrator, Calvin A. Bonenberger Jr., returned messages Wednesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.
However, a press release issued by the Rising Sun Police Department shortly after the May 13 shooting described Meadows as “an armed suicidal subject in a residence with possible hostages” who refused to comply with police commands and “turned toward the officers while raising the handgun.”
According to the complaint, Meadows was in the throes of a mental breakdown brought on by a combination of the prescription painkillers he was taking for injuries related to his troubled construction business, failed relationships, depression and feelings of paranoia.
He arrived at his father’s house a little after 6 p.m. His father described him as “going off,” not making eye contact and talking to God before saying “I want one of your guns,” the complaint stated.
The father told Meadows to get out of the house but, instead, he ran into the bedroom for the guns. He pushed his stepmother aside and loaded one of the weapons.
The stepmother called the police at 6:45 p.m, leaving Meadows in a room with his father and a neighbor.
Maryland State Police and Cecil County officers arrived first, followed by three officers from Rising Sun.
“When the Rising Sun police arrived on the scene, they did not, as would be appropriate when dealing with an emotionally unstable, suicidal person, communicate with James (Meadows), or the two men in the room with him, in an effort to get a read on the situation or to calm James down,” the complaint stated. “Instead, almost immediately after arriving, the officers charged at James and opened fire.”
The lawsuit is docketed as James D. Meadows II et al. v. Town of Rising Sun, Md., et al., No. 1:20-cv-01197-CCB.