DEARBORN, Mich. (WJBK) - The family of a 31-year-old woman who was shot and killed by Dearborn police as she allegedly tried to run over officers in January has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Dearborn and the city's police officer who filed the shots.
Janet Wilson, 31, was shot and killed on January 27 when police say she tried to run over officers with her car outside Fairlane Mall on Hubbard Drive near the Southfield freeway. Seven months after her death, Wilson's family has filed suit against the city and the officer who pulled the trigger, James Wade.
"The family is just sad. They're frustrated, and they want answers and justice for their loved one," family attorney Vince Colella said. "You can't just shoot into a vehicle of an unarmed person who is not even suspected of committing a crime."
The family is claiming excessive force, unconstitutional policies, assault and battery, and gross negligence in the wrongful death lawsuit. The family says Wade unjustifably shot Wilson after she caused a disturbance at Fairlane Mall.
Police said Wilson had been driving erratically and allegedly fleeing police when she tried to run over an officer.
"We believe the evidence will show that officer Wade was not in front of the vehicle or in danger when he discharged his firearm," Colella said.
The lawsuit says Wilson, who suffered from mental illness, was shot 4 times in her chest and arm. Colella says the positioning of Wilson's car and of the patrol car are key but adds that Wilson's family has still not seen the dashcam video, despite Michigan State Police finishing their investigation on June 16th.
Colella says the refusal to release that video "reeks of secrecy."
"I don't see any reason why they've refused to do that," Colella said. "This video should be released. The community has the right to see it."
Colella says he plans to seek a federal court order for the release of that dash-cam footage, along with every other piece of evidence that he says amounts to 850 documents, 16 hours of video and audio, and Wilson's autopsy report.
Colella says Wade's history and the city's failure to act should also be made public: the lawsuit cites three incidents from 2012 to 2015 of Wade being "overly aggressive" and using "inappropriate tactics". Wilson was suspended at one point for six months, Colella said.
Wilson's shooting was the second officer involved shooting in Dearborn in just a few weeks - on December 23, Kevin Matthews was shot and killed by a Dearborn cop after police say he tried to grab the officer's gun during a struggle. Colella says that magnifies the city's problems.
"We feel that, based on the evidence and the prior shooting of Kevin Matthews just 34 days earlier, that the city of Dearborn's deadly force policy is defective and unconstitutional," Colella said.
Dearborn police, the city, Michigan State Police and the prosecutors office would not comment on the lawsuit.
The Wayne county prosecutors office has not yet made a decision on whether the shooting was justified.