A prominent Florida-based personal injury law firm will sue the Dayton Police Deparment over the July death of 20-year old Kylen Lewis. Trial attorney Willie E. Gary announced his intention to file suit in a press conferece earlier today in Dayton. Gary described the death as an “injustice” that is racial in nature.
Given the nature of Gary’s charge and reported distrust of the police among Dayton’s black community, the case could be prominent nationally.
Kylen English apparently jumped to his death over a Dayton bridge on July 16, 2011. English was arrested without incident that evening after a caller told 911 that he was trying to break into her apartment. According to a Dayton Daily News timeline of events, English slammed his head into a wall at the Montgomery County Jail, causing police to take him to a local hospital for evaluation where he was cleared and released.
On the way back to the jail, the transporting officer said, “Kylen, just so you know, if you start acting goofy again, it’s going to be on camera this time.” English then asked the officer if he believed he would go heaven if he killed himself. Shortly thereafter, English apparently began hitting his head against the car window. Dayton Police audio recorded the transporting officer saying, “Hey, partner,” just before English said, “I wanna die.”
The arresting officer’s conversation with dispatch indicates that English busted out the car window and jumped over the Salem Street Bridge where landed on rocky plain. He was transported to Miami Valley Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Friends, family, pastors, and local activists later gathered at a vigil for English where they protested the police department. Many said they did not believe Dayton’s account of the events, with the English’s family accusing the police of using a Taser.
The Montgomery County Coroner ruled English’s dead a suicide and found no evidence of Taser use.
In addition to the Dayton Daily News timeline, Dayton Police Department records thus far made public seem to indicate no wrongdoing. English’s mother has also admitted that “her son had a history of depression and self-harming behavior.” One eyewitness to the incident even posted what he saw on Facebook from a mobile device, an account that seems to corroborate Dayton PD statements.
A Dayton Police Department investigation into the matter has been suspended in lieu of a federal inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Attorney of the Southern District of Ohio, and the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice.
Gary’s press conference gave no specifics other than his intention to file suit against the Dayton Police Department and other unspecified defendants.
Willie E. Gary’s firm—Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson and Sperando—prides itself as being “a voice for the voiceless” and to protecting “the rights of powerless and disenfranchised.” Gary himself boasts of reputation as a “giant killer,” having won “more than 150 cases valued in excess of $1 million each.”