Alleging that Maricopa Police Department’s own aggressive behavior resulted in the death of a local veteran, Johnathan Guillory’s widow has filed a wrongful death suit in federal court.
The suit names Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth, who shot Guillory on Jan. 18, 2015. It also names their spouses and unidentified others. A notice of claim was filed with the city, Mayor Christian Price and the named defendants in July.
The actual complaint, with demand for a jury trial, was filed in Arizona District Court on Jan. 16, just within one year of the shooting.
Attorneys David and Kathryn Lunn of Scottsdale filed the suit on behalf of Maria Garcia and Guillory’s four children. In a demand for punitive damages, they called the officers’ action “willful, malicious, oppressive and/or reckless and it was done with an evil hand.”
Garcia disputes MPD’s claim that Guillory had a weapon at the time of the incident. MPD has stated the officers feared for their lives and fired on Guillory “as trained to do.”
That police training is a central point of the lawsuit. It alleges MPD did not properly train its officers to deal with such confrontations and in fact condoned excessive force and reckless behavior by its officers.
The city does not comment on pending litigation.
Guillory was a U.S. Army veteran. He returned from his second tour in Afghanistan in 2003. He was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Garcia is also a veteran. She met Guillory in 2005, and they married in 2008. He had two children from a previous relationship.
Before Guillory’s death, MPD had already responded to emergency and non-emergency calls at the Guillory home on Garden Lane in Cobblestone Farms. He also had previous arrests involving drugs and alcohol.
The suit claims MPD had asked the community’s assistance in training officers in how to deal with subjects with PTSD, and just days before the incident Guillory went to the department to help the effort.
Then that Sunday afternoon, a 911 call apparently from Guillory’s cell phone was relayed to MPD but the caller hung up. Several police vehicles responded to the scene.
According to both the suit and police reports, Guillory walked out of his garage, away from his home and down the street toward a common area. Dispute arises over whether officers saw a weapon or an object that looked like a weapon and over Guillory’s behavior toward the officers. Police say a handgun was recovered at the scene.
He walked toward Hawksworth, who told him to “Stop walking.” What Guillory did then is a point of disagreement. No report indicated Guillory fired on the officers. Both Hawksworth and Perez shot Guillory. He was struck in the torso four times and died an hour later.
Attorneys claim in the suit, “Even though the officers knew of Johnathon’s PTSD and had been informed to approach with caution, they stormed the neighborhood, surrounded Johnathon, followed him, yelled at him, had their weapons loaded and raised, and treated him like a criminal.”