When a loved one dies unexpectedly, families need answers to the why and how. If it happened by accident, or at the hands of another, accountability is critical to the emotional recovery that allows one to move on. Sometimes, a wrongful death lawsuit is the means by which that accountability can be had.

Milwaukee families will be able to understand this need in a woman in another state because it could easily happen here. She alleges her sister died after police pulled her over for a traffic violation, used excessive and deadly force and delayed medical care to save her life.

Suspects have rights, and they need to be protected regardless of circumstances. In this complaint, the plaintiff alleges in August 2013, the defendant policemen, under the direction of a narcotics officer, stopped the victim for an illegal lane change. They reportedly suspected she had bought drugs from the passenger. The complaint states that while in the back of the cruiser, the victim tried to swallow a small amount of cocaine. One officer observed it, and allegedly began to hit the woman with his fist and then his flashlight, trying to get her to spit it up. When she didn’t, he used his flashlight across her neck, choking her into unconsciousness.

Removing her to the ground, two officers allegedly tased and continued striking her with open hands and flashlights. Still unconscious, the woman remained on the ground for about 20 minutes, convulsing, before the defendants called an ambulance. Autopsy results show she died of asphyxiation.

Plaintiff claims the officers tried to cover up the excessive force used by intimidating witnesses, including directing a person to cease videotaping. Plaintiff contends the civil rights violation directly caused her sister’s death, naming the city and five police officers as defendants.

Police officers are in place to protect law-abiding citizens and criminals. They aren’t above the law and must be held accountable when actions are proven to harm someone. If a clear understanding of evidence supports legal action, an experienced approach to seeking compensation for survivors is a step towards moving on.

Courthouse News Service, “Beaten to Death During a Traffic Stop” No author given, May. 28, 2014