The mother of a man fatally shot by Independence and Sugar Creek police three years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming officers used excessive force.
Tamy Lukecart, of Warsaw, Missouri, filed the suit last month in Jackson County Circuit Court. Her son, 22-year-old Dakota Lukecart of Lincoln, Missouri, was shot the morning of Jan. 24, 2017, after a chase from Independence that ended in a cul-de-sac in adjacent Sugar Creek, just north of Mill Creek Park. The chase started when an Independence officer tried to stop Lukecart for an expired tag (the car belonged to Lukecart's passenger, who was injured in the shooting), and dashcam footage showed Lukecart ran red lights and drove into oncoming traffic.
An officer from each department fired at the car when Lukecart refused commands to show his hands and instead accelerated toward the officers, police said.
Those named in the lawsuit include Independence Chief of Police Brad Halsey and officers Darren Spade and Brendan Buchanan and Sugar Creek Chief of Police Chris Soule and officer Victor Contreras.
The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges after it reviewed the case. According to the report from the office's use of force committee, Lukecart's passenger Trevor Payne told police Lukecart wouldn't stop because he had warrants for his arrest, a gun in the car and did not want to go back to jail. Payne said he asked to be let out of the car, but Lukecart refused to stop and threw the gun at Payne, telling him to shoot at the pursuing officers. Payne refused and threw the gun back, and Lukecart eventually threw the gun out of the window, along with drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine.
A citizen later found the gun in the middle of the street, in the “cocked” position with a clip inside.
When the chase reached the dead-end, according to the prosecutor's report, the Sugar Creek and Independence officers each got out of their car with guns drawn. The IPD officer said he had his gun light on and was looking “face to face, eye to eye” with Lukecart, who refused multiple commands to show his hands and instead turned the car around toward the officers, then quickly accelerated.
Both officers said they believed they could not get out of the car's path in time and fired into the driver's side of the car but did not know if their shots hit either person. After the car stopped again, both Lukecart and Payne got out voluntarily and the officers realized they had been shot and gave first aid after handcuffing them.
Payne said when the chase ended, Lukecart said, “(Expletive) it!” and appeared to drive directly toward an officer. He thought the car hit the officer and he expected shots to be fired. Lukecart died from his injuries, and Payne was rushed to a hospital for surgery and eventually recovered.
In releasing the committee's findings, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the officers' need to make a split-second decision – which they did simultaneously and for the same reason, despite having never trained together – should be taken into account, as opposed to hindsight in 20/20 vision.
“While any officer's action to shoot into a moving vehicle to disable the driver is a risky maneuver and should be avoided when possible, both shooting officers determined they had no other viable options at that moment,” Peters Baker said. “Based on their statements, the physical evidence and corresponding testimony, our committee finds that conduct is lawful.”
A case management conference for the suit has been scheduled for May 11.