Dominique White's family and city of Topeka jointly seek dismissal of suit linked to police shooting

·3 min read
This image from Topeka police body camera video shows officers struggling with Dominique White, who had a handgun in his left pocket, before he broke free, started to run away and was fatally shot in September 2017.
This image from Topeka police body camera video shows officers struggling with Dominique White, who had a handgun in his left pocket, before he broke free, started to run away and was fatally shot in September 2017.

Dismissal appeared imminent Friday for the more than $10 million lawsuit being pursued against Topeka's city government over the fatal 2017 Topeka police shooting of Dominique White.

The city and White's relatives who have been pursuing the suit filed a joint motion Wednesday in U.S. District Court asking that it be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it couldn't be refiled.

"Plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss their claims against the City of Topeka," the motion said.

No ruling had been made on the motion as of Friday.

Reasoning for motion not being shared

Shelly Starr, the city's chief of litigation, declined comment Friday regarding the two sides' reasoning behind the joint motion.

"The city of Topeka doesn’t comment on pending litigation," Starr said. "This case is pending until any appeal is exhausted."

The Capital-Journal was unable to reach attorneys representing members of White's family.

The plaintiffs in the suit are White's parents, Kelly White and Mary Theresa Wynne, who are co-administrators of his estate and have been acting on behalf of themselves and White's four minor children.

White's family has been represented in the case by Andrew M. Stroth, managing director of Chicago-based Action Injury Law Group, a national civil rights law firm.

The two sides noted in Wednesday's motion that U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O'Hara ruled Oct. 26 that the only part of the suit that could proceed was an assertion by White's estate that the city and its police department trained officers inadequately.

O'Hara wrote in the Oct. 26 ruling that a Wichita attorney helping represent White's parents and children had acknowledged that they were not pursuing a wrongful death claim, meaning White's estate was the only possible plaintiff and his parents and children could not pursue the suit as individuals.

"Therefore, as stipulated by the parties on the record, the court dismisses any and all claims by Kelly White and Mary Theresa White in their individual capacity and also in their capacity as next friends of minors TUW, JSW, JKW, and NCE," O'Hara wrote.

Previously: Relatives of Dominique White seeking $10 million linked to his death after Topeka police shot him

Lawsuit sought more than $10 million

Court records show members of White's family sought $10 million for alleged civil rights violations linked to White's death and an additional $4,790 to cover funeral expenses.

Topeka police officers Justin Mackey and Michael Cruse were on duty when they fatally shot White, 30, in the back after a struggle the morning of Sept. 28, 2017, near Ripley Park at S.E. 3rd and Lawrence.

White denied he had a gun, then resisted the officers as they tried to seize a handgun from his shorts pocket, said Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay.

White was shot after running away from officers with his left hand hovering over the pocket containing the gun, Kagay said.

The officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the case, and an internal police investigation concluded they had committed no policy violations.

Members of White’s family’s then filed a two-count lawsuit in June 2018 against Mackey, Cruse, the city and five unnamed Topeka police officers. The unnamed officers were subsequently dropped as defendants.

Previously: Members of Dominique White's family seek to reinstate 2 officers as defendants in lawsuit

Judge: Topeka officers involved had qualified immunity

The suit’s first count contended Mackey and Cruse shot White without just cause. The second contended the city and its police department trained officers inadequately.

A federal judge issued an order in September 2020 removing Mackey and Cruse as defendants because they have qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages if their conduct doesn’t violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

Members of White's family had since continued to pursue the suit against the city.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Dominique White's family agrees to dismiss Topeka police shooting suit

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