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Summerside mother sues local police in shooting death of Jeremy Stephens

Jeremy Stephens, 32, died in May 2018 after Summerside police shot him as they attempted to apprehend Stephens at a Duke Street residence.
Jeremy Stephens, 32, died in May 2018 after Summerside police shot him as they attempted to apprehend Stephens at a Duke Street residence. - Contributed
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

A lawsuit seeking millions of dollars claims Summerside police applied “inappropriate and unjustifiable force" in the shooting death of a 32-year-old man two years ago.

Gilda Stephens is suing Summerside Police Services, Prince County Hospital, Health P.E.I., among others in the death of her son, Jeremy Stephens.

The suit, dated May 27, was filed in P.E.I. Supreme Court seeking $6 million, which includes $2.5 million in damages for wrongful death and another $2.5 million for Charter damages for “catastrophic breaches".

The lawsuit claims Summerside police acted with disregard to the well-being of Stephens, who was a suspect in an altercation and alleged robbery at the Quality Inn in Summerside.

On May 27, 2018, Summerside Police Services conducted surveillance of 188 Duke St., where Stephens was known to be residing, the suit notes.

The home in which Jeremy Stephens, 32, of Summerside, was shot by police as they attempted to arrest him. - SaltWire File
The home in which Jeremy Stephens, 32, of Summerside, was shot by police as they attempted to arrest him. - SaltWire File

 

No attempt was made to obtain a search warrant.

At some point while police were conducting surveillance, Stephens went outside the front door to have a cigarette. When approached by police, Stephens went back into the residence and police chased him without warrant, the suit claims.

The house was dark due to a power outage and not all police officers were carrying flashlights. Police followed Stephens into the dark basement without advance planning and communication among the involved police officers.

“As a consequence, both Jeremy and the involved officers were placed at considerable risk," the suit claims.

“When police commands were first being delivered to Jeremy he did not respond. At some point Jeremy stood up, agitated, and (the police officer) either bumped into something in the dark, cluttered basement, or tripped backwards and his firearm discharged."

The officer fired two more shots, according to the lawsuit, and another officer in the basement fired six times. Stephens was hit by eight bullets, according to the lawsuit.

“This use of force was applied in circumstances where the defendants knew or ought to have known that said force would cause Jeremy’s death and either acted in bad faith or were willfully blind as to the risk of death and/or reckless as to whether death ensued or not,” the suit reads.

Alexis Skiffington holds a photo of her uncle, Jeremy Stephens during a memorial service on May 28, 2019, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stephens’ death.
Alexis Skiffington holds a photo of her uncle, Jeremy Stephens during a memorial service on May 28, 2019, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stephens’ death.

 

An investigation by the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), found no cause to lay criminal charges against the police. The SIRT report suggested Stephens ignored police commands and threatened an officer with the broken arm of a chair and then a golf club.

The suit, though, accuses police of not preparing occurrence reports independently, and also argues Summerside police remained in charge of the incident scene on Duke Street for nearly two days until the arrival of SIRT on May 29.

After the shooting, police drove a handcuffed Stephens, who was bleeding heavily from his leg and chest, to Prince County Hospital.

The suit claims the hospital was not ready because police did not provide accurate information. During the power outage, the hospital’s CT scanner had not been plugged into a generator and was not operational, according to the lawsuit.

“Gilda states that the results of the SIRt investigation were irreparably tainted, thus depriving her, and the rest of her family, of any prospect of closure in respect of his (Jeremy’s) death," according to the suit.

“The plaintiffs will always be uncertain about the role of the police in Jeremy’s death, and the lack of closure is directly tied to the acts and omissions of the police defendants and the Government of Prince Edward Island."

The suit claims Gilda Stephens has suffered ongoing physical, psychological, and emotional harm as a direct result of the conduct of the defendants and what she views as the wrongful death of her son.

Summerside police and the officers named in the lawsuit have filed notice in P.E.I. Supreme Court that they intend to defend themselves. The allegations against them have not been proven.

Gilda Stephens is seeking trial by jury in P.E.I. Supreme Court.

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