Jim Boyle May 8, 2014, 8:00am


The family of a Philadelphia man who was shot eight times and killed by city police officers

in 2012 has filed a wrongful death suit against the officers involved, the police department and city of Philadelphia, claiming the incident violated the victim's civil rights.

On August 27, 2012, Michael Berry, 39, was involved in a fight outside the El Paradisio bar at the corner of D Street and Wyoming Avenue in Philadelphia. According to the complaint, police officers arrived on scene in an unmarked car with no sirens. One officer, James Boone, exited the vehicle and drew his gun, the claim says. When Berry attempted to run back into the bar, Boone fired his weapon, hitting Berry eight times in the back and side, according to court documents, which also state the incident was filmed on videotape.

Berry died at the scene, leaving behind a wife and two children. The complaint, filed by his wife, Kari, says that since Berry was retreating he posed no threat to the officers, and he could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner.

The use of excessive force has been an ongoing problem for the Philadelphia police department, the claim says. The issue has been strong enough to compel Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to request a federal inquiry into the department's practices. The request was made in May 2013, with the findings yet to be presented.

According to statistics provided in the complaint, "It is believed that police in Philadelphia shot 52 suspects, killing 15, in 2013. In 2011, police wounded or killed 35."

The plaintiffs are also suing the city for not properly training and supervising the officers, thus allowing a system that permits their illegal conduct. The use of excessive force deprived Berry of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendment, as well as his civil rights under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory claims in excess of $50,000, plus punitive damages and court costs. They are represented by Media, Pa.-based attorneys Anthony Pinnie and Nancy Wright.

The claim has been originally filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, but defense attorneys have petitioned to move the case to federal court at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Philadelphia.

The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-02608-BMS.

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