Glenn McGovern claims “system failure” in filing a lawsuit against the New Orleans Police Department on behalf of the family of Adolph Grimes III.
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More than a decade after he was killed in a hail of gunfire by New Orleans Police Department officers, relatives of a Brother Martin High School graduate have revived their lawsuit against the city.
Family members first sued the city a month after the killing of Adolph Grimes III on New Year’s Day in 2009, but the case was put on hold while the U.S. Department of Justice considered whether to bring civil rights charges.
The feds decided not to pursue criminal charges in 2013. It wasn’t until this August, however, that the civil case sputtered to life with a new filing from the mother of Grimes’ son. With the case back in court, U.S. District Judge Barry Ashe is set to hear pretrial arguments Dec. 5.
The Grimes lawsuit centers on the unresolved controversy over what happened early on Jan. 1, 2009, as Grimes sat in a rental car in the 1700 block of Gov. Nicholls Street.
Police said plainclothes officers pulled up next to the car because it matched the description of a vehicle seen fleeing from a shooting at a nearby nightclub. They said Grimes fired a single shot at their unmarked SUV and they opened up in response.
The cops fired dozens of bullets, hitting Grimes 14 times. He died at the scene.
The NOPD eventually cleared all the officers involved. But relatives cried foul, pointing out that Grimes had no criminal history and was in town only for the holiday.
Grimes’ family maintains that he never fired at the five cops alongside him. They claim he was inside a relative’s house at the time of the nightclub shooting and that the cops never identified themselves before unleashing a barrage on him.
After the NOPD closed its investigation, the family pinned its hopes on a separate Justice Department probe. But that investigation ended in 2013 with no charges.
Since then the family’s lawsuit had been dormant. The attorney representing Grimes’ child’s mother, Glenn McGovern, said he was contacted earlier this year to revive it. He filed a motion to lift the stay on the case in August.
The shooting was one of the controversial cases leading to the Police Department’s reform agreement with the federal government, which went into effect in 2013. Since then officers have been equipped with body-worn cameras to record such confrontations. A specialized, beefed-up unit also conducts internal investigations of officer shootings.
But McGovern, a longtime civil rights lawyer, said there are continuing defects in the Police Department’s policies on plainclothes officers. He also handled a lawsuit for relatives of a man shot in New Orleans East by a member of a plainclothes squad in 2017.
“It’s the most important police case next to (Henry) Glover, for me, of outrageous conduct, because it’s a system failure and they have not changed their ways. It’s going to take a substantial judgment for the full amount of the harms to wake them up,” he said.
The December hearing before Ashe could determine the course of the lawsuit against the city and former Police Superintendent Warren Riley.
Lawyers for New Orleans have filed a motion to dismiss the claims. The officers continue to deny wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the city is also fighting to dismiss claims from Grimes’ parents, who rushed out onto the street soon after the shooting.
The city did not respond to a request for comment.