Doris Shavers' Family: Melton Lied | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Doris Shavers' Family: Melton Lied

Shalandria Shavers, the 21-year-old daughter of domestic-violence victim Doris Shavers, and James Hopkins, Shavers' brother, served notice today to the city of Jackson and Mayor Frank Melton of a wrongful-death claim against the city, the Jackson Police Department and "John Does 1-6," representing specific police officers who the family says did not prevent Shavers' death.

Shavers was killed by her former boyfriend, Henry Phillips, after JPD officers responded to two separate calls on Sept. 17, concerning Phillips' alleged threatening actions with a gun against a mentally disabled minor. According to the family, the first two responding officers returned one of Phillips' handguns to him, and did nothing about his second gun. When his family called police again, the second two responding officers took only one of two guns, although the family told them about Phillips' second gun. Moments after the second two JPD officers left the scene, Phillips fatally shot Shavers in the head as she sat next to 12-year-old Jessica, one of her three daughters, combing her hair. It was Jessica's birthday.

This afternoon, attorney Dennis C. Sweet III held a press conference to announce the family's intention. Reading from a prepared statement, Hopkins said: "Mayor Frank Melton came to the house and lied to us and made all types of promises. He told us that he would get to the bottom of everything, and there would be an investigation and officers would be dealt with. He told us there would be a police escort for the funeral, counseling for the kids and (that) their daughters would be cared for. All this was a lie. We have not heard from the City or Mayor since the television cameras left."

Asked whether Hopkins had attempted to reach Melton, Hopkins said that none of the numbers Melton had given him worked.

"The mayor gave us contact numbers—he gave us a cell number and a home number. The following day, those numbers were changed or disconnected," Hopkins said. He added that because the numbers Melton personally gave him did not work, the family did not make additional efforts to reach Melton.

"Henry should have gone to jail when they came out. That was one option. The other option would have been to take the weapons," Hopkins said when asked what should have happened the day Shavers' was killed.

"The city will have every opportunity before the suit's filed … to help this family and resolve this," Sweet said. "This family is ready to receive the help they were promised."

The city has 120 days to answer the claim before Sweet will file a lawsuit. "They need to come in and help those children," he continued, and although the family says that it's not about money, Sweet later added, "I'll tell you what, I haven't seen anyone eat free; I haven't seen any medical insurance free." Sweet said that he would mediate at no charge to the family. He added that he felt the family would not move forward with the suit if the city did what Melton promised.

Gross negligence and breach of duty will be among the charges in the lawsuit, if the family files. "We are here today to try and make sure that another family does not lose a loved one through the negligence and indifference of the Jackson Police Department," Hopkins said.

Previous Comments

ID
96214
Comment

Did the Ledger attend the same press conference?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-11T16:22:54-06:00
ID
96215
Comment

Dennis Sweet to the rescue once again. If I'm not mistaken, he also filed the wrongful death charges against the YMCA and Melton in a past negligent incident.

Author
dpsmith
Date
2007-10-11T16:29:43-06:00
ID
96216
Comment

Reading from a prepared statement, Hopkins said: “Mayor Frank Melton came to the house and lied to us and made all types of promises. He told us that he would get to the bottom of everything, and there would be an investigation and officers would be dealt with. He told us there would be a police escort for the funeral, counseling for the kids and (that) their daughters would be cared for. All this was a lie. We have not heard from the City or Mayor since the television cameras left.” Asked whether Hopkins had attempted to reach Melton, Hopkins said that none of the numbers Melton had given him worked. That is so insensitive and just plain wrong. The mayor needs to apologize publicly.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-10-11T17:21:23-06:00
ID
96217
Comment

The Supreme Court has ruled (quite recently) that police have ZERO duty to protect you, and cannot be held liable for not protecting you. Can't sue Police "Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, in which the court ruled, 7-2, that a town and its police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order, which had led to the murder of a woman's three children by her estranged husband."

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-10-12T05:27:09-06:00
ID
96218
Comment

So LawClerk are you saying that the notice served upon the city is defective and that Dennis Sweet did not fully investigate the law before serving notice? And that the police owe no duty to protect the citizens that they serve?

Author
malt
Date
2007-10-12T05:51:49-06:00
ID
96219
Comment

Malt, I'm not saying it's defective, I don't know enough about his case. I'm also not saying he didn't investigate the law enough. I don't know what his lawsuit actually is. I am saying, that the police have no duty to protect the citizens they serve. They can't have a duty, because if they did, they would get sued because they can't protect them 24/7. This is why I say that people need to provide their own security. My problems with this particular case is the gun involved. Should the cops have taken his firearms? Yeah, probably since he was threatening people with them, but... and it's a big but... If you are going to shoot someone in the head, are you telling me you won't stab them or choke them? I just fail to believe that. If the cops took all the guns, do they stop there? Why not take the knives? Hammers? Just my .02.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-10-12T06:13:19-06:00
ID
96220
Comment

I will agree that if someone is in the frame of mind to kill then they will probably try any and all means to do just that. But, like you, I do feel like all the guns should have been taken. (if it had been my child that he pointed a gun or threaten to shoot at I am not sure what I would have done) Also, who is to say that if the weapon had been removed that the situation would not have been defused at that point. Most of us are not mind readers nor can we see into the future, but it sure seems that the police did not use the standard of care that a reasonable person should have used, and police are (and should be) held to a higher standard of care degree.

Author
malt
Date
2007-10-12T06:59:39-06:00
ID
96221
Comment

I think a better way would have been to arrest him, for threatening the child with a firearm, rather than just confiscating his firearms. That way, at least he won't then be able to stab, choke, beat, etc... This is just really terrible, all the way around. It makes me sick to have people that would 1) act this way, and 2) even THINK to act this way. I just can't comprehend it.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-10-12T07:29:49-06:00
ID
96222
Comment

LawClerk, could not the police officer(s) that responded not be charge with culpable negligence (or whatever is Mississippi's terminology of that phrase) which is failure to use the standard of care that a reasonable prudent person would use. I know that would be taking that statute to it broadest area, but again are not the police held to a higher standard of the laws which they enforce?

Author
malt
Date
2007-10-12T07:44:16-06:00
ID
96223
Comment

what's one more lie from frank melton, didn't he also promise to fund a young lady from lanier college education...that was never done either. he gave all his phone numbers to her to call as well

Author
mother
Date
2007-10-12T12:47:01-06:00
ID
96224
Comment

Of course, he lied. What do you expect a liar to do??????????

Author
justjess
Date
2007-10-12T13:28:35-06:00
ID
96225
Comment

Lawclerk: I'm a layman so I don't necessarily understand all the nuances of the link you posted regarding the case in Colorado. Justice Scalia cited Colorado law when making his ruling. Does our law here in Mississippi mirror that of Colorado?

Author
BuyJxn
Date
2007-10-16T07:17:06-06:00
ID
96226
Comment

Colorado law was used to determine whether the cops had a duty to serve/enforce/whatever (I didn't read the case) the restraining order. If the cops had failed to do something that was mandatory under state law, the case might have turned out differently. There was a similar Mississippi case a few years ago.

Author
Jennifer2
Date
2007-10-16T08:22:23-06:00
ID
96227
Comment

In Shavers' case, I don't see how the cops can be liable unless the plaintiffs can point to something the cops did not do but that they were required to do.

Author
Jennifer2
Date
2007-10-16T08:37:10-06:00
ID
96228
Comment

Jennifer2, Do police have the discretion to choose which laws to enforce? The cops were called because Phillips allegedly brandished a gun at a minor in the street, which he admitted to the first officers who responded, according to the family. That should have been reason enough to arrest him and/or take away his guns. Doesn't Mississippi have laws that make such a thing illegal and therefore an arrest-worthy offense? I'm not a lawyer, either, but it just seems like common sense to remove either the weapons and/or the offender in a situation where an offender is waving a loaded gun around and threatening people. At least the second set of police took one gun away from Phillips. Unfortunately, he just went for the one they decided not to take to fatally shoot Shavers.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2007-10-16T18:37:15-06:00
ID
96229
Comment

I don't think there is anything in Mississippi law that says if a cop is presented with situation x, he HAS to take the suspect into custody. In general, public officials or servants, including cops, have lots of discretion. You make think that is bad but just imagine if everything the governent did was controlled by something akin to the federal sentencing guidelines. No one would understand it, for one thing.

Author
Jennifer2
Date
2007-10-16T19:49:41-06:00
ID
96230
Comment

The classic cases in this context are the drunk driver cases. Cops can stop a suspected drunk driver and mistakenly release him thinking he is not drunk. The cop is not liable if drunk driver kills someone. He is only liable if he makes the situation worse. For instance, cop arrests driver for something. Cop knows that passenger is totally drunk but leaves the scene knowing the drunk person will drive. I think the latter may make the cop liable. If someone got insistent, I could probably find cases demonstrating these scenarios. I like finding things.

Author
Jennifer2
Date
2007-10-16T19:54:58-06:00
ID
96231
Comment

A high-up law-enforcement official—not the police chief!—told me that the officers should have taken the gun at the very least because he brandished it toward someone—a direct violation of state law. And they easily could have arrested him, at least overnight, to get him out of a dangerous and explosive scenario. I suspect the Shavers family is going to have a very compelling case.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-10-16T20:38:38-06:00
ID
96232
Comment

Ladd: "A high-up law-enforcement official—not the police chief!—told me that the officers should have taken the gun at the very least because he brandished it toward someone—a direct violation of state law. And they easily could have arrested him, at least overnight, to get him out of a dangerous and explosive scenario. I suspect the Shavers family is going to have a very compelling case." I doubt that very few, if any, experienced, competent police officers would disagree with your source's statement or your suspicions. However, the reality is that the law and case precendent favors the state (police) in any subsequent lawsuit- should there be one filed. Jennifer2, in my opinion, provides an explanation of how liability attaches to police conduct in the "clsssic cases" example above.

Author
Robert Johnson
Date
2007-10-16T22:11:09-06:00

Like independent media outlets around the world, the Jackson Free Press works hard to produce important content on a limited budget. We'd love your help! Become a JFP VIP member today and/or donate to our journalism fund. Thanks for considering a JFP VIP membership or one-time support.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus