Family of black NJ man killed by police may sue for $5 million
FRANKLIN — In the midst of a pending three-month investigation, the family of a 27-year-old man who was fatally shot by police in April has put police on notice — they could be sued for $5 million.
The tort notice, filed July 6 in Somerset County Superior Court, says that if the family decides to lodge a wrongful death lawsuit against the town, it will seek damages for lost futures wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and loss of companionship and parenting, NJ Advance Media reported.
On April 9, Diahlo Grant of Franklin Township was shot and killed by two police officers who chased him from Somerset into New Brunswick, crossing county lines.
According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office, after the officers and Grant exchanged gunfire at 1:31 a.m., one of the officers performed CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive at the scene. Grant was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson hospital in New Brunswick at 3:17 a.m.
But friends and family have said they doubt Grant would run or fire at police, and that they don't believe he carried a gun. Civil rights activist the Rev. DeForest "Buster" Soaries Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, has reportedly been in touch with authorities about the case.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey released a statement in April saying members of his office were investigating the fatal shooting to determine whether use of force was justified. The prosecutor's office said Grant's gun was recovered from the scene.
Athorities have released few details about the shooting, declining to explain why the two cops encountered Grant in the first place and why they followed him on foot across the county line into New Brunswick. They also have not identified the police officers, something authorities rarely do in cases of police shootings.
But in police documents obtained by New Jersey 101.5, it was found that Grant was a suspect in a Feb. 15 shooting on Ambrose Street in Franklin— though friends and relatives have doubted Grant was armed at the time of his April 9 death. The prosecutor's office has also said Grant had warrants for non-payment of child support in Middlesex County and for violation of probation on a drug charge in Somerset County.
A tort notice is not the same as a lawsuit. In order to lodge a lawsuit, a tort claim must be filed within 90 days of an incident. Grant's family could still decide not to file a suit, despite making the tort claim.
The claim was signed by Pauline Grant, Diahlo's mother, alleging wrongdoing by "the one or more Franklin Township Police Officers who pursued and/or shot Diahlo Delano Grant," NJ Advance Media reported. It also claims Grant was shot multiple times by officers, which led to his death.
The two officers involved in the shooting, who remain unnamed, were placed on leave following the shooting and placed back on duty May 24, Franklin Township Police spokesman Sgt. Phil Rizzo told NJ Advance Media.
The video below was posted to Youtube under the name "Melanated Media Solutions," asking for "Justice for Diahlo Grant" and asking "How long will the police continue to gun down our men and women?"
Earlier this month, on July 5, Baton Rouge police killed Alton Sterling, a black man who was shown in a video widely spread across the Internet being held down by police outside of a Louisiana convenience store and being shot several times.
A day later, 32-year-old Philando Castille was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer after being pulled over in a car. His girlfriend in the passenger seat live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook.
Both incidents remain under investigation.
Black Lives Matter protestors across the country took to the streets to protest Castille and Sterling's deaths, including in NewJ cities such as Jersey City and Newark. During a protest in Dallas, a gunman, Micah Johnson, shot and killed five officers.
The Grant family, in May, was contacted by the Black Lives Matter organization but declined the group's offer to stage a protest, Grant's sister Camille O'Sullivan, told NJ Advance Media at the time.
They've since decided to work together. On July 21, the organization plans join on Somerset Street and march through New Brunswick to call for transparency and justice.
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