OKC Police Pay $50,000 to Settle Federal Lawsuit in Shooting of Mentally Ill Man

The mother of a mentally ill man left paraplegic when he was shot by an Oklahoma City police officer has agreed to accept $50,000 to settle the federal lawsuit she filed on her son's behalf.

Carlette Bradley, filing on behalf of her son Marquis Pegues, now 31, says that officer David Jehle did not receive adequate training in dealing with mentally ill suspects in volatile situations, thus escalating the situation and using excessive force in shooting the man.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty says that the officer involved did not do anything wrong, and that his use of force was determined to be justified by the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office. Citty asserts that the settlement offer is not an admission of wrongdoing in the case, but rather a way to quickly end the case without the time, expense, and stress of a trial. He said of the settlement, "I don't want people to think that ... we're settling this case because this young officer did something wrong. Because that's not the case at all."

Also as part of the settlement, the OKCPD has agreed to expand training for officers in how to handle situations involving those with mental illness or disability. Citty says, however, that the training officers are currently provided is adequate, and that they only agreed to expand training as a means of settling the federal lawsuit.

The case began on June 12, 2014, when police received a call that a man was standing outside a tattoo parlor swinging a knife. By the time police arrived, the man, identified as Pegues, had dropped the knife and run into a laundromat. Officer Jehle entered the laundromat with his gun drawn and ordered Pegues to the floor. At first, Pegues complied with the officer's order, but when Jehle attempted to handcuff him, Pegues fought back. Eventually, Pegues reached for the officer's gun, and Jehle shot him three times, leaving him permanently disabled.

The shooting was ruled justified, because law enforcement officers are allowed to use lethal force to defend themselves when their lives are in danger.

Pegues's attorney, however, says that the situation never should have escalated to the point where potentially lethal force was utilized:

"We don't believe the officer's conduct was malicious but we do believe the officer's conduct was negligent. You don't rush in and create a situation where force becomes necessary. It doesn't make any sense to approach someone who is not behaving rationally the same way you would approach somebody who has just committed a crime."

In light of recent events where use of lethal force has been used against the mentally ill, mental health advocates are calling for increased law enforcement training in de-escalating situations with the mentally ill, rather than escalating irrational behavior through aggression.

Image credit: Scott Davidson

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