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Lawsuit filed against Strongsville police in death of unarmed man on I-71

Posted: 5:44 PM, Jan 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-18 17:44:06-05
Lawsuit filed against Strongsville police in death of unarmed man on I-71

A lawsuit was filed Thursday against the Strongsville Police Department and its members involved in the death of an unarmed man for alleged use of excessive and unreasonable force.

On March 7, 2017, Roy Evans, Jr. was driving his family home on I-71. In the car with him were his girlfriend of ten years, Amanda Pauley, and his three children — 15-year-old Devin Connard, 6-year-old Yasmyn Evans and 2-year-old Roy Evans, Jr. Jr. 

At the time police said they tried to pull Evans over for a traffic violation but he failed to pull over and continued to speed. 

A high-speed pursuit lasted for several minutes before two cruisers boxed Evans in. Evans then put his van into reverse and moved forward, hitting one police cruiser.

The lawsuit states officers were able to see inside the van to see Evans was unarmed and that there were other people inside the van. It also says his vehicle was stopped, and his hands were on the steering wheel and visible to officers. 

No weapons found inside van driven by man shot and killed by Strongsville police after chase on I-71

According to the lawsuit, the supervisor on duty, former chief of police James Kobak, told officers to stay in their vehicles and follow felony call out procedures instead of rushing Evans' van. Instead, the suit alleges officer James Miller rushed the van, pulled open the driver's side door and shot Evans repeatedly.

Dash cam video shows deadly Strongsville police-involved shooting

Attorney Marcus Sidoti, who is representing the estate of Roy Evans, said the video of the incident shows Miller was out of his car almost immediately, despite the call to remain inside, showing a clear disobedience to his superior's order. He also says the video shows that he shoots Evans immediately after opening the van door, even though Evans' hands are clearly displayed on the steering wheel.

The lawsuit also says this was the fourth on-duty shooting Miller was involved in, including a similar incident when he shot another unarmed suspect in 2012. 

Strongsville officer cleared in deadly I-71 shooting of 36-year-old Lorain man

Miller told investigators he was afraid Evans was going to "back up and pin" him. He said he shot Evans when he saw Evans' right hand drop out of view.

"I thought for sure he was going for a gun," Miller said. "The thought process was so fast to try and get to the draw before he did."

Officers later discovered Evans' hand was reaching toward rolls of carpet stuffed between the driver's and passenger's seat.

Miller shot Evans again about 2 seconds after the first shot, a report from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation said. Miller told investigators it was because Evans' hand dropped further out of sight.

Evans' girlfriend told investigators he didn't stop because he was on parole and didn't have a license. She said Evans was returning from a carpet job the night he was killed.

The attorney representing Evan's girlfriend, Joseph Scott, said the family is trapped in nightmare.

"These are very, very young children who were present for this, that watched their father get gunned down this way," he said. "They are literally trapped in a nightmare that I don't know that they'll ever get out of. They're struggling to deal with this, being children of such tender age, and it's going to take a long time for them to realize a sense of normalcy."

Man shot by Strongsville police officer following I-71 chase was released from jail last year

The City of Strongsville released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"In regards to the incident that took place on March 7, 2017 on Interstate 71, the City of Strongsville has not been served with any Complaint. The City has no further comment at this time."

Mark Gillispie from the Associate Press contributed to this report.