CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — The mother of a man fatally shot by a North Carolina police officer during an attempted car theft filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming the officer broke the law when he shot her unarmed son several times, called in the incident, then fired again.
Brandon Combs died after he was shot while behind the wheel of Concord Officer Timothy Larson’s police SUV in February, attorneys said.
Attorneys for Virginia Tayara filed the complaint Tuesday in Winston-Salem federal court accusing Larson and the City of Concord of excessive force, assault and battery, wrongful and intentional death and gross negligence, The Charlotte Observer reported. Attorney Harry Daniels said the complaint seeks “some form of justice for the Combs family.” The family also hopes the civil complaint will “jump start some criminal charge or indictment” against Larson, he said.
“Police officers cannot be judge, jury and executioner. That’s why we have a criminal justice system. That’s why we have the rule of law,” Daniels said.
The Cabarrus County District Attorney’s Office is investigating Combs’ death and has had the findings of a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation since June.
Concord Police said in a statement Tuesday that the department was aware of the lawsuit, “and we understand people want to know more about the officer and his actions on February 13.” To protect the integrity of the review, the department won’t make any further comment until the district attorney announces her decision, police said.
Larson, who was later fired by his department, could not be reached for comment and his attorney did not immediately respond to emails from the newspaper seeking comment.
Concord police initially said Larson shot Combs following a “physical altercation” at the Modern Nissan car dealership, where the 29-year-old Gastonia man was trying to steal a truck. But Daniels said Larson’s body-camera captured the truth.
The video has not been publicly released, but Daniels and other family attorneys have seen it. Daniels, who represented the family of Andre Brown after he was fatally shot last year by deputies in Elizabeth City, has called the Combs footage one of the worst police shooting videos he has ever seen.
According to the lawsuit, when Combs got behind the wheel of Larson’s patrol vehicle, Larson fired five shots through the windshield of the vehicle, which was not moving. He called in the shooting to the department dispatchers, then fired again.
Larson did not go to Combs’ aid, the lawsuit claims. Larson, 27, later told the other officers at the scene that he shot Combs because he was trying to steal his SUV.
Larson was fired May, according to documents the newspaper received from a public records request. Chief Gary Gacek cited Larson for insubordination in his termination letter for refusing to answer questions after the shooting and for giving misleading or untrue answers in other instances.