KILLEEN, Texas — The mother of James Scott Reed, a 41-year-old man killed while Killeen police attempted to serve him a no-knock warrant, filed a lawsuit against the City of Killeen and police officers who work or worked with the Killeen Police Department.
Diane Reed Bright filed the suit alleging that her son's "Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to be free from excessive and deadly use of force" were violated because of the city's use of no-knock warrants that led to Reed's death in February 2019.
The lawsuit brought against the City of Killeen and officers Anthony R. Custance, Richard A. Hartfield, Jr., Fred L. Baskett and Christian Suess also claims:
- That conspiracy occurred and "the use of excessive and deadly force resulting in the death of Reed... in violation of his individual rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and, consequently, in violation of his civil rights
- Killeen Chief of Police Charles F. Kimble had the authority to implement policies and train police officers, "but failed to implement and enforce such polices, practices and procedures for KPD that respected Reed's constitutional rights to protection and equal treatment under the law"
- The council and Kimble's "failure to implement the necessary polices and the (de facto) implementation of unconstitutional polices, unnecessarily cause Reed to die at the hands of police officers who engaged in the excessive and deadly use of force after invading his home using the vicious tactic of a no-knock, no-announce raid." The suit goes on to say that the officers "conspired to cover up their excessive and deadly acts.
The lawsuit refers to an incident in early Feb. 27, 2019 when Killeen police carried out a no-knock warrant for James Reed in the 200 block of West Hallmark Ave. While executing the warrant, Reed - a known drug dealer - was killed by police and an officer was injured, but not shot.
Previous reporting by 6 News described the investigation by the Texas Rangers that followed. The Texas Rangers found that Officer Anthony Custance did not follow the operation's plan and tampered with his rifle and ammunition. The investigation further found that Custance fired into the back of the house where Reed was. The shots did not cause injuries, but did not follow the department's plan, according to the investigation.
Furthermore, the Rangers found Custance tried to hide a rifle magazine with missing rounds.The investigation concluded that the officer could be criminally prosecuted and once the department launched an internal investigation, Custance resigned.
The investigation led to Custance's arrest on a charge of tampering with evidence. He later plead guilty to the charge.
In November 2019, Reed's family asked for the officer who killed Reed to be held accountable. The officer was not identified.
Custance was sentenced to six years deferred adjudication probation in December. He also permanently surrendered his peace officer license.
The lawsuit indicated that Custance formed part of the entry team of officers in Feb. 2019 on the day the warrant was executed. The lawsuit claims Custance did not comply with his role on the entry team.
Meanwhile, Hatfield, Suess and Baskett were assigned different roles at the window of Reed's bedroom.
The Rangers also spoke with a woman, who was in the bedroom with Reed when the warrant was executed by KPD. She "initially indicated that she did not see whether Reed shot at the police or not but later confirmed that Reed had not fired any shots," the lawsuit claims.
The woman also said "she only realized that the police were outside after they stopped shooting." She later "reiterated that the police did not announce themselves before the shots began."
The lawsuit stated that the Rangers' investigation found that three of the officers involved had shot at Reed, not just Hatfield and Baskett as KPD had reported.
At a later meeting of the KPD SWAT Team with the Rangers, Custance admitted he did shoot at the back of the Reed residence, according to the suit. After a Ranger inspected Custance's rifle, he admitted that he had reloaded his magazine after the raid.
The suit said, to justify their shots at Reed, the officers claimed that Reed had "stuck his arm out of the window and shot at officers with a handgun before they returned fire." They went on to say that the initial gunfire was from Reed using a small gun, and was therefore not from Custance's rifle.
However, an examination of the handgun in Reed's bedroom found that the magazine in the gun was full - and even jammed - and therefore left no evidence that the handgun had been fired the suit said.
Officers Hatfield and Baskett are still active with Killeen police, according to the lawsuit.
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