LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The family of Ricardo Munoz, the man who was shot and killed by Lancaster Police last September, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Miguelina Pena, Munoz’s mother, filed the suit on Monday. She is suing the department, the city and the officer who shot him, among others.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, says the officer who arrived at the Laurel Street home “failed to respond in a manner that would ensure Ricardo’s safety”.
On Tuesday Rulennis Munoz, Ricardo’s sister said the suit is the only option for the family since local authorities didn’t file charges.
The suit claims the officer, who is identified as Karson Arnold, open-fired on Munoz before trying to de-escalate the situation.
“What we’re looking at is a complete structural failure across the board,” Ryan Borchik, an attorney for the Munoz family, said.
The suit said the Munoz family called to get psychiatric help for 27-year-old Muñoz, who had schizophrenia.
The suit said the officer “at no point made any attempts to use his taser, and against all legitimate police training, instead escalated the situation through threatening confrontation”.
The suit also mentions that hours after the shooting Lancaster Police released body camera footage of the shooting. The suit mentions the video appears to show Munoz running toward the officer while brandishing a knife over his head.
Attorney’s for the Munoz family say the video doesn’t point the whole picture.
“That was an involuntary reflex because (Munoz) had already been shot twice at that point,” Michael Perna, an attorney representing the Munoz family said. “It was the impact of the bullets that lifted him off the ground.”
In October, a month after the shooting, Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams ruled the shooting justified. She said the officer only had four seconds to react when Munoz charged at him with a knife.
The Munoz family said by filing the lawsuit they hope it will lead the defendants to take some action to prevent this from happening again going forward.
“We need change,” Rulennis Munoz said. “We need cops to change the way they approach these situations and they should be trained properly to deal with these types of situations.”
The lawsuit also names the city of Lancaster, former Lancaster Police Jarrad Berkihiser, the county of Lancaster, and unknown police officers as defendants and seeks a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees.
The city declined comment, citing its long-standing policy of not commenting on litigation.
Administrators with the Lancaster Bureau of Police also declined to comment on the suit.