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Al Jazeera

Family of 11-year-old shot by police files $5m negligence lawsuit

Aderrien Murry suffered a collapsed lung after being shot in the chest by police in Indianola, Mississippi [File: Courtesy of Nakala Murry/AP Photo]

Lawyers for the family of an 11-year-old boy shot by police have filed a $5m civil lawsuit in a United States district court on Tuesday, alleging negligence, use of excessive force and a violation of the child’s constitutional rights.

“My client, Aderrien Murry, did everything right and nothing wrong,” lawyer Carlos Moore said of the 11-year-old victim, who spent five days in the hospital, recovering from a punctured lung, a lacerated liver and fractured ribs.

“And yet, he was still shot, point blank, centre range, in the chest by Greg Capers.”

The lawsuit names Capers, a police sergeant, along with the city of Indianola, Mississippi, and Police Chief Ronald Sampson as respondents. The case is the latest in the US to spur national headlines over questions of police overreach and violence against unarmed Black people.

“It’s the most egregious case of excessive force I’ve witnessed or heard in my 21 years of law practice,” Moore said at Tuesday’s press conference.

Of his 11-year-old client, Moore said, “I believe he will be the catalyst for police reform in this nation. Something has to give.”

In the early hours of the morning on May 20, Murry called emergency services at his mother’s request, after her ex-boyfriend arrived at their home looking “irate”, according to Moore.

But when the police arrived, Aderrien’s mother, Nakala Murry, explained that her ex-boyfriend had already left. She also said he had not been carrying a weapon.

Still, the police called for everyone inside the home to exit with their hands up. That’s when Aderrien walked into the living room and Capers shot him in the chest, according to Moore.

“I came out doing this,” Aderrien said, holding his hands in the air, during an interview on Tuesday with Good Morning America. “It feels like a Taser, like a big punch to the chest. That’s what it feels like, getting shot.”

Aderrien was ultimately transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the state capital of Jackson, 153km (95 miles) south of Indianola, where he was placed on a ventilator.

Through tears, Nakala Murry also told Good Morning America, “I was trying to get help. I just wanted help.” She has called for the police officer involved to be fired.

Moore, the lawyer, has highlighted that police allegedly attempted to kick down the door to the family home before Nakala could open it on the night of the 911 call.

“He had his guns blazing as soon as she opened the door. Luckily she didn’t get shot,” Moore said of Capers on Tuesday. He added: “We give Greg Capers the benefit of the doubt in that it [the shooting] was not intentional. But it was definitely grossly, grossly reckless.”

Indianola City Attorney Kimberly Merchant told The Enterprise-Tocsin, a local newspaper, on Thursday that Capers is no longer on active duty, but she declined to comment further: “It is a personnel matter.”

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has also announced it is examining the incident.

Both Capers and Murry are Black. But police violence tends to disproportionately affect Black people in the US, with a 2021 report in the medical journal The Lancet estimating that they are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than non-Hispanic white people.

“Greg Capers is 61 years of age. He was a shift supervisor. He’s a sergeant,” Moore said on Tuesday. “How in God’s green earth did he shoot this young man? His family has many questions, and they have received no answers.”

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