Woman Sues Police Department and Town Over Shooting of Armed Assailant

A standoff involving a suspected criminal, his hostage, and a police officer in March 2012 ended with the suspect dead, the hostage rescued, and the officer hailed as a hero. In an unusual twist, the woman who was held hostage that evening has indicated that she plans to sue the New Jersey township where the incident occurred. In a tort claim notice filed in June, she stated that she intends to claim negligence and various breaches of duty against both the township and the police officer involved in the shooting, and to seek monetary damages for injuries she allegedly sustained as a result. Because the township is a government entity, she is legally required to submit a notice of claim to the township before she may file a lawsuit.

During the early evening of Thursday, March 8, 2012, mall security guards and an off-duty police officer working security approached 44 year-old Andres Garcia in the Woodbridge Center shopping mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey. They suspected Garcia of shoplifting. Garcia was also wanted for violating his parole on a robbery conviction. He reportedly fled from the security guards through the mall. At the entrance of the Sears store, Garcia grabbed 62 year-old Ellen Shane, who was shopping with her husband, Ronald Shane. Holding a knife to her throat, Garcia dragged Shane into the store while her husband tried to hold onto her. According to the county prosecutor, the police officer, Edward Barrett, Jr., warned Garcia several times to drop the knife. Garcia reportedly told Barrett he would hurt Shane if Barrett did not allow him to leave. Barrett fired a single shot that struck Garcia in the head. Garcia was pronounced dead at 5:32 p.m. at the scene, with the gunshot later ruled as the cause of death.

In their tort claim notice, Shane and her husband state that she suffered injuries due to Barrett’s actions, and that they are both receiving treatment from a psychiatrist and a psychologist for post-traumatic stress syndrome. Barrett, they allege, did not take sufficient steps to resolve the standoff before opening fire. They also allege that the township failed to properly safeguard the public and were negligent in the hiring, training, and supervision of law enforcement personnel. They also claim violations of policies at the local, county, and state levels for approaching and apprehending suspected shoplifters.

Shane appears to be making a series of negligence claims against the township and Barrett, essentially arguing that they breached a duty of care in dealing with Garcia. It is not clear if they are alleging any physical injuries, or if their injuries are limited to post-traumatic stress disorder and similar claims. Most states allow claims for mental anguish in personal injury claims, but not all states allow a plaintiff to recover damages solely for psychological injuries. Some states, including Maryland, do not recognize the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). New Jersey, however, is one of the states that does allow NIED claims.

The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured due to the negligence or illegal acts of others. Contact us today online or call (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

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