An almost unfathomable incident recently occurred in Dallas. A young man was lawfully occupying his apartment on the fourth floor of his apartment complex when an off-duty Dallas policewoman shot and killed him.
Her defense? She thought that she was in her own apartment located on the floor beneath her victim’s nearly identical apartment. She claimed to have mistakenly parked on the wrong floor, thus setting off the fatal chain of events.
She was arrested on manslaughter charges, although her case is likely to wind up in front of a grand jury where the charge could be upgraded to murder.
Criminal cases versus civil cases
The deceased man’s family members have hired an attorney to help them sort out the facts from fictional accounts in the case. It is probable that the circumstances of the man’s death inside his own apartment will rise to the level of a viable wrongful death claim.
It is far easier to prove someone guilty of wrongful death in the Texas civil courts than it is to convict them of murder — or even manslaughter. That’s because the bar for the standard of proof is lower in civil cases than it is in criminal cases. After all, the stakes are much higher in a criminal case.
Witness accounts allegedly differ from official story
According to the family’s attorney, the man’s neighbors reported hearing a female say, “[L]et me in, open up,” followed by a pair of gunshots. Then, they heard a male voice say, “Oh my god, why did you do that?”
Those words were the last words the man ever spoke, the attorney stated.
In egregious cases like this where a law-abiding resident is shot in his own apartment due to police negligence, families should fully understand their options under the law.
Certainly seeking criminal justice to punish offenders is paramount. But holding police departments liable for the conduct of their officers — as well as the individuals themselves — by pursuing wrongful death litigation is a parallel path to justice.