Meghan Hoyer, The Courier-Journal January 22, 2001, Monday Ind/Indiana Copyright 2001 The Courier-Journal The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY.) January 22, 2001, Monday Ind/Indiana (AUSTIN, Texas) -- The widow of a Scott County man killed in an Austin liquor store has sued the Austin Police Department, claiming that if officers had been properly trained, her husband wouldn't have been shot by an agitated gunman last year.
Tamra Ross said she feels conflicted over trying to win damages stemming from her husband's death. But she said she believes officers could have saved the father of her three children.
''I say all the time it's not about money,'' she said. ''No amount of money in the world can bring him back - then again, I think it is about money, because my husband isn't here to provide for his children.''
The suit was filed in Scott Superior Court. It asked for unspecified damages.
Kenneth Wayne Ross, 45, was killed in a shooting Feb. 28 that led to questions about how the police handled what was initially thought to be a dangerous hostage situation.
Kenneth Ross was managing a liquor store that morning when an armed man entered and shot him.
The incident began earlier in the morning when Gregory Miller, angry with his estranged wife, fired shots at her car outside Austin Elementary School. No one was hurt in that shooting.
Miller left the scene in his truck and got into a three-vehicle accident a few blocks away. He walked away from that crash carrying a shotgun and entered the nearby liquor store.
Tamra Ross' suit claims that police Capt. Lonnie Noble, who was called to the school shooting and accident, chased Miller as he walked to the store. The lawsuit says Noble had a clear field of fire and could have disarmed or stopped Miller.
Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.
According to a state police investigation, Miller shot Kenneth Ross moments after entering the store. Miller shot himself less than 30 minutes later, after an emotional phone conversation with his wife.
Thinking that Miller was holding Kenneth Ross hostage, Noble ordered officers to put Miller's wife on the phone.
Authorities on police and hostage negotiations later told The Courier- Journal that such a decision violated accepted procedures because police should focus on calming the hostage-taker, not raising the situation's emotions.
Tamra Ross' lawsuit says Noble placed Kenneth Ross in danger by allowing Miller to enter the store and allowing the gunman to talk to his wife.
The suit, against the town of Austin, the police department and Police Chief Marvin Richie, claims the department failed to train its officers how to react to hostage situations.
Contacted at home, the chief said he had no comment on the uit or on police training.
Earlier he had said Noble acted properly and there was no way to predict Miller would shoot Kenneth Ross.
Tamra Ross says the department took away her husband's constitutional rights by not protecting him from what officers should have foreseen as a dangerous situation.