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City, Officers Named in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

February 17, 2002
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City, Officers Named in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The mother of a man shot by Knoxville police following a chase last year has filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit against the officers and the city.

The suit was filed Friday in Knox County Circuit Court by Doris Bly - whose 39-year-old son, Lynford R. Smith, died Feb. 17, 2001, from a gunshot wound to the head.

It accuses the city of negligence in Smith's death and officers James L. Miller, Jason Neal Sherrod, John Kiely and Jason Matthew Morrow of violating his civil rights.

The lawsuit also claims the city of Knoxville routinely refuses to recognize excessive force and fails to discipline its officers for it, leading to Smith's death.

"The city of Knoxville's pattern and practice of indifference to the use of force has emboldened Miller and other officers, causing such officers to be more likely to use excessive force," the lawsuit claims.

Bly, represented by Knoxville lawyer Philip Lomonaco, filed a similar $2 million lawsuit last year in federal court. Named in that action are the city and Miller, who both lawsuits contend fired the fatal shot.

The encounter began after Kiely saw Smith's van with the broken light driving through an inner-city housing project and tried to stop him. Smith didn't pull over as four cruisers chased him.

Smith - who had cocaine in his system at the time of his death and was wanted on several arrest warrants - reached a dead-end, drove over the curb, spun around and then tried to run over the officers, authorities said.

The four officers then opened fire and wounded Smith.

An internal investigation cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, and a subsequent review by Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols also determined the officers' actions were justified.

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