By Curtis Skinner
(Reuters) - The family of a mentally ill black man who was unarmed when he was shot dead by police in Milwaukee in 2014 filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Wednesday against the officer and city over his death.
"Justice and accountability have been hard to come by for Dontre Hamilton's family," family attorney Jonathan Safran said in a statement. "As the two-year anniversary of the shooting death of Dontre approaches, the family is left with one final avenue to obtain accountability and justice."
The filing comes amid heightened scrutiny of the use of excessive force by U.S. police against black men.
Former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney was fired after shooting 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton on April 30, 2014, in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. He was not criminally charged by county or federal prosecutors.
Milwaukee City Attorney spokeswoman Laura Bergner said the office had no comment on the lawsuit. It was not immediately clear if Manney had an attorney. The police department was not listed as a defendant in the case.
The 46-page complaint said two officers checked on Hamilton twice during the afternoon of his death as he was resting at a park near a Starbucks and determined that he was not doing anything wrong.
Manney had been called to check on Hamilton earlier, but did not listen to the voicemail until after the two welfare checks by the other officers. He then went to the park on his own to check on Hamilton, the lawsuit said.
The complaint claimed when Manney arrived, he conducted a pat-down search of Hamilton without cause and the two began arguing. Manney then started striking Hamilton with his baton and Hamilton grabbed it from him, the suit said.
Manney then backed up and opened fire on Hamilton, shooting him 14 times, the suit said.
The lawsuit also alleged that Hamilton was only one of the latest victims whose constitutional rights were violated by Milwaukee police and that the department has a culture that facilitates misconduct.
Authorities said Hamilton took Manney's baton and struck him with it before he was shot dead. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Manney acted without malice, but failed to follow police policies when addressing mentally ill people.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Andrew Hay)