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Jacksonville cops sued after firing 42 times at carjacked mom, kids

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A mother who was shot along with her two-year-old son when they were carjacked at a drive-through restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police.

The lawsuit alleges that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has a “widespread practice” of unjustified shootings, reports the Florida Times-Union.

JoAnn Cooper, along with her daughter, seven-year-old Alexis, and her son, two-year-old Daniel Crichton, were at a Wendy’s drive-through when they were carjacked in March.

According to the lawsuit (PDF, via WJXT), Jeremiah Mathis, who police say had just robbed a nearby Wachovia branch, jumped into Cooper’s car. Cooper managed to knock a gun out of Mathis’ hands before police officers opened fire on the car.

Mathis was killed. Cooper was shot in the foot, while two-year-old Daniel was shot by one bullet that hit his arm and chest. He lost parts of his lungs and ribs, according to the suit. When Mathis attempted to get out of the car, officers opened for fire a second time. Five police officers are alleged to have fired a total of 42 rounds at the car.

“Police firing 42 shots at a car in disregard of whether it was occupied by innocent people at a time of day when children can be expected to be in car seats returning home from school … shocks the conscience,” Cooper’s attorney, Bill Sheppard, told the Times-Union.

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Spokespeople for the sheriff’s office declined to comment to the media.

In June, a police review board recommended that two of the officers involved, who fired 30 of the 42 shots, be investigated by internal affairs, “citing concerns they failed to consider their surroundings, among other issues,” the Times-Union reported.

Board members … were critical of [Officer] Black and [Recruit] Griffith’s decisions to fire into what turned out to be a vehicle occupied by civilians. They also were cited for focusing on the suspect and failing to consider other potential victims, including a police supervisor and, especially in Griffith’s case, Wendy’s customers.

The lawsuit lists 11 police-related shooting incidents since January 2007 as evidence that “there is a widespread practice of members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shooting citizens under circumstances where such shootings were unjustified.”

Named in the lawsuit are the five officers — Lt. Jessie York, Officers Ryan Black, Richard Santoro and Jason Lederman and Recruit Darries Griffith — as well as Sheriff John Rutherford.

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