Family of woman killed by cop sues Dearborn for $10M

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The family of a woman fatally shot by Dearborn police outside Fairlane Town Center is suing the city and a police officer for $10 million in damages, alleging the department knew of the officer’s history of excessive force.

Janet Wilson, 31, of Detroit, was shot by Officer James Wade on Jan. 27 following a verbal altercation at the Dearborn mall.

According to the lawsuit against the city and Wade, police were dispatched to the area on a report of a “disorderly mental female.” Wilson stopped her car after being approached by two Dearborn police vehicles traveling behind her, according to attorney A. Vince Colella, who filed the lawsuit.

The two officers exited their vehicle and pointed their weapons at Wilson while she was inside her car, the complaint says. One officer physically removed Wilson from her car and “within moments,” Wade shot Janet four times in the chest and right arm.

Wilson was unarmed and had no alcohol or drugs in her system, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit says the city of Dearborn was aware of Wade’s history of excessive force, including a six-month suspension of his title of defensive tactics instructor on June 2, 2015, for “overly aggressive and inappropriate tactics” during a police incident at Fairlane; a reprimand on March 26, 2015, for improper use of force at city hall, and an April 1, 2012, incident involving “overly aggressive vehicular chase tactics.”

Mary Laundroche, director of public information for Dearborn, said the city has not been served with the lawsuit and has no comment. Wade is on administrative leave.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

Colella, meanwhile, has sought evidence, including dash cam video and 911 dispatch audio, in the Jan. 27 incident. But the city has denied the request under a state statute involving “materials obtained pursuant to an investigative subpoena.”

The Detroit News reported on Feb. 4 that witnesses told investigators Wilson had seemed “distraught” and incapacitated at Fairlane on Jan. 27.

Michigan State Police said she later appeared to have tried to hit a security guard and a vehicle outside with a Chevrolet HHR, refused to stop for Dearborn police who tried to pull her over then almost struck an officer while speeding away. An officer pulled out a weapon and shot at her, state police said.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office determined her death from multiple gunshots a homicide.

Wilson’s shooting was the second recent fatal shooting of an African-American involving a Dearborn police officer.

Kevin Matthews, 35, an unarmed black man, was shot Dec. 23, 2015, by a Dearborn police officer.

Friends and family described Matthews as harmless and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Dearborn police say he went for an officer’s gun before he was fatally shot on Whitcomb on Detroit’s west side.

The officer was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident, Dearborn police said. The Detroit Police Department is investigating that case.

JChambers@detroitnews.com