LITTLE ROCK — The family of man shot and killed by off-duty police officers in his apartment asked the U.S. Justice Department on Monday to investigate possible civil rights violations in the shooting and within the Little Rock Police Department.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, lawyers for the family of the late Eugene Ellison alleges a “troubling pattern of police conduct” at the department and charged that internal investigations into allegations of misconduct are intended to “exonerate police officers who have committed excessive force, illegal warrantless entries and other unlawful acts in the course of their duties.”
Ellison, 67, who was black, was fatally shot in December 2010 in his Little Rock apartment during a confrontation with two white off-duty police officers, Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis, who were working security at the apartment complex. The officers said they went to check on Ellison and that he reacted violently when they entered his open apartment. An internal police investigation determined the shooting was justified.
Members of Ellison’s family filed suit in October 2011 against the officers, the police department and the Chateau Apartment complex. One of Ellison’s sons is a Little Rock police sergeant and another is a former detective with the department.
The family contends the police department’s internal investigation was tainted because it was conducted within the homicide division that was supervised by Donna Lesher’s husband.
LRPD spokeswoman Sgt. Cassandra Davis did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
In a statement released Monday, Davis said the police department complied in 2011 with Department of Justice requests for information and/or records in the investigation of Ellison’s death.
“Since the case … is still in litigation, the department will not make any comments as they relate this case,” the statement said.
The Ellison family alleges that the officers’ account of the shooting are inconsistent with the evidence of the case.
The family’s letter seeks a meeting with Holder at the Justice Department, an “objective, professional criminal investigation” of the shooting of Ellison and a Justice Department probe into prior internal investigations conducted by the LRPD.