A federal lawsuit has been filed against two police officers who were part of an officer-involved shooting last February in Lakemore that left a man blind and was later ruled as justified.
The lawsuit was brought against officers Ezekiel Ryan And Kristofer London. Ryan is a Lakemore officer, while London is a Springfield Township officer. It alleges that the shooting was unjustified and violated the victim’s rights.
The complaint was filed by Matthew B. Burghardt's family in federal court.
According to the lawsuit, Burghardt and another man were sitting inside a van in a parking lot in the 1200 block of Main Street. The suit states that police responded to the area for a reported theft at a nearby business.
When authorities arrived, the Lakemore officer and two officers from the Springfield Township Police Department, approached the van. The officers told Burghardt and the other occupant to open the door, the lawsuit states.
When the second Springfield Township officer tried unlocking the van using a slim jim, the van’s second occupant sat up. Burghardt, who was laying down in his seat with his eyes closed, remained laying down.
When the van started to back up, the Springfield Township officer told the two Lakemore officers, “Don’t shoot him, don’t shoot him.”
The lawsuit states that despite the officers not being in the path of the van as it reversed, the two Lakemore officers fired three shots each at the two men inside.
The incident was captured on body camera. You can watch it in the player below. (WARNING: The video contains graphic content)
The suit states that Burghardt was unarmed when he was shot.
The lawsuit states that Burghardt was shot in the head and arm and suffers from “serious, debilitating physical injuries and continuing psychological trauma. Burghardt underwent several surgeries following the shooting, including having a steel plate on his head to replace parts of his skull.
The shooting left Burghardt blind and he now suffers from “greatly diminished cognitive ability,” equal to that of a 5-year-old child, the lawsuit states.
Burghardt's parents, Matt and Michelle Burghardt, said their son wasn't armed, did not pose a threat to the officers and was reclined in the passenger seat.
"It was just wrong. It was just unjustified," Matt Burghardt said.
"I just don't think he deserved this," Michelle Burghardt added. "He deserved to be in trouble, but not to get shot."
The Burghardts also said, based on body camera video, they believe the officers were on the side of the van and not directly in its path when the vehicle was thrown in reverse.
"They weren't going to get hit. They were beside the van. The van can't go sideways," Michelle Burghardt said.
The lawsuit seeks to have a jury award compensatory damages in an amount that will be chosen at trial, as well as punitive damages that will “adequately punish and deter the acts and omissions alleged” in the complaint.
In August 2018, the Summit County Prosecutor’s office ruled the shooting as justified. An investigation conducted by the Summit County Prosecuting Attorney concluded that based on all available evidence, officers Ryan and London were acting within their authority as law enforcement officers when they used deadly force.
"Officers London's and Ryan's ultimate use of deadly force was legally justified and appropriate in light of the circumstances, and risk posed by" Burghardt and the other occupant of the van, the report states.