With his gun drawn, a Surprise police officer investigating a stolen license plate jumped into a suspect’s vehicle last year and fatally shot the 20-year-old man behind the wheel.
Now, the man’s family is suing for what they argue was the officer’s use of excessive, negligent force.
An attorney representing the family of Derek Adame filed a wrongful-death lawsuit last month against the Surprise Police Department, the city and two officers involved in the Nov. 26 shooting.
A copy of the lawsuit, body-mounted camera footage and police records obtained this week by The Arizona Republic shed light on a suspicious-vehicle call that resulted in a police officer being partially dragged by a vehicle and a young father being shot dead the weekend after Thanksgiving.
“It’s the family’s belief, and my belief as well, that the evidence will show that the shooting was out of policy, that it was a negligent shooting,” said Anthony Ramirez, the family’s attorney who filed the lawsuit, in an interview this week with The Republic.
Though the circumstances are somewhat unclear, reports suggest Adame was sleeping in his sedan in a southwest Surprise neighborhood when the officer approached at 12:48 a.m.
Officer Joseph Gruver moments prior received reports of a suspicious vehicle in the area. That’s when he spotted the white 2016 Nissan Sentra parked on the side of the road near the greenbelt.
A quick check of the vehicle’s license plate returned a “stolen tag” alert. He activated his overhead lights, aired the stolen plate report over the radio for confirmation, and stepped out of his patrol vehicle.
As a second officer headed toward the scene, Gruver unholstered his gun and approached the car. He briefly waited at the passenger door before he opened it, identified himself as an officer and demanded Adame put his hands on the steering wheel, video shows.
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