Family of Iowa teen killed by police files a lawsuit saying officers should have been better trained

Dec 27, 2023, 2:13 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The family of a 16-year-old who was killed by Des Moines police in December 2022 has filed a lawsuit arguing that the teen never pointed a gun at officers and police should have had better training in de-escalation before the confrontation.

The shooting of Trevontay Jenkins was linked to the Jan. 23 shooting at the Starts Right Here alternative school in Des Moines that left two teenagers dead and the program’s founder injured. Disparaging comments about Jenkins surfaced online following the police shooting, which prosecutors say led Jenkins’ half brother and another teen to kill 16-year-old Rashad Carr and 18-year-old Gionni Dameron.

Jenkins’ sibling, Bravon Tukes, was acquitted this fall of a murder charge after prosecutors accused him of helping planning the school shooting and acting as the getaway driver. Preston Walls was convicted of murder and manslaughter in a separate trial.

The federal lawsuit that Jenkins’ mother, Monica Woods, filed is based partly on body camera video that has never been released to the public. The Des Moines Register reports that the lawsuit says Jenkins never pointed a gun at officers

The Iowa Attorney General’s office determined three officers “acted with legal justification” when they fired more than a dozen times during the confrontation. Officers were dispatched to the home to respond to a domestic dispute and have said they tried unsuccessfully to de-escalate the situation.

Police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Parizek told the newspaper that the city prohibits police from commenting on pending litigation.

The lawsuit says that at one point Jenkins started a conversation with one of the officers while the others kept shouting at him to drop the gun. As part of the exchange, he made comments about one of his other brothers who had been killed in an Arizona shooting the month before and said “I wanna die.”

It says he also told the officers he would put the gun down if they would shut off the lights they were pointing at him.

At one point, the teen looked at his cell phone in his left hand while he began raising the gun toward his head. The lawsuit said the gun was never pointed in the direction of any of the officers, but they opened fire when Jenkins’ arm was parallel to the ground.

The lawsuit says the officers should have had better training in ways to defuse a confrontation and better supervision.

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Family of Iowa teen killed by police files a lawsuit saying officers should have been better trained