Family of man shot, killed by Euclid Police officer files lawsuit against cop, city

Luke Stewart shot and killed in March
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-09 17:57:44-04

The family of the unarmed man shot and killed by a Euclid Police officer in March filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday.

Named in the lawsuit are Officer Matthew Rhodes, who shot 23-year-old Luke Stewart, Rhodes’ partner Officer Louis Catalani, and the city of Euclid.

RELATED: Man in Euclid officer-involved shooting ID'd; radio dispatch recordings paint scary picture

The lawsuit argues the city is responsible for unlawful policies and excessive force.

“There is a major problem in Euclid and through this lawsuit, the family of Luke Stewart intends to push for major reform within this department so that nothing like this ever happens again,” said family attorney Sarah Gelsomino.

Stewart was shot five times, according to an autopsy report.

“I actually feel that they tortured my baby,” said mother Mary Stewart on Monday. “He was tortured, just tortured.”

The fatal shooting happened shortly after the two officers responded to a report of a suspicious car parked on South Lakeshore near East 215th Street on March 13.

RELATED: Euclid police release body camera video following fatal shooting of 23-year-old unarmed man

Upon arrival, Officer Rhodes positioned his vehicle in front of Stewart's because he believed he might be impaired.

Rhodes said in the Ohio Attorney General's summary report, "We normally have one vehicle behind and one in front in case they pull forward."

With his vehicle positioned in front of Stewart's car, Rhodes began walking towards the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Louis Catalani was on the driver's side of the vehicle.

The report shows Catalani attempted to pull Stewart out of the car while Rhodes pushed him from the passenger side area.

During that time, Stewart went for the key and started his car, placing it in drive—hitting Rhodes' patrol vehicle.

"I couldn't get out of the vehicle because it was moving and I didn't want to get smashed between my vehicle and the passenger door, so I basically jumped into the vehicle. I pulled my legs into the vehicle with me to avoid being smashed between the two vehicles," Rhodes said during the investigation.

Rhodes told investigators, “I remembered we were up on the curb, we came down off the curb onto 222nd Street, we are driving down 222nd, I am looking at him and out of the corner of my eye I can see the telephone poles whipping past and I can’t get this car stopped.”

According to the report, Rhodes said he deployed his Taser six times to try to get Steward to stop the car, but it barely had an effect.  The officer said he then struck Stewart several times in the side of the face with the Taser, and when that didn’t work, he finally drew his sidearm.

At the time of the incident, Stewart had three active warrants out for his arrest, according to the prosecutor's report. Stewart also had a digital scale inside his vehicle, along with a plastic bag containing suspected narcotics.

According to the toxicology report, Stewart had an ethanol level of 0.250 g/dL, which is over three times the legal limit to operate a vehicle in Ohio. He also tested positive for cocaine and Oxycodone in his system.

In August, a grand jury declined to indict Rhodes on any charges.

According to a Euclid Police spokesman, Officer Rhodes is back on full duty.

The city of Euclid said Monday they had no comment at this time regarding the lawsuit.