A Norfolk man claims a police officer shot him three years ago while his hands were up and he was pleading for his life.
“Please don’t shoot,” Marius Mitchell said during an altercation with the Norfolk officer, according to a federal lawsuit that seeks $10 million in damages, plus interest and attorney fees.
Attorneys for Mitchell and Officer Neal Robertson, who retired in December, declined to comment on the suit. In court documents, however, a defense attorney denied many of the allegations, including that Mitchell was shot with his hands up.
A jury acquitted Mitchell last year on all charges connected to the incident. Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood cleared Robertson of any wrongdoing as well, finding the officer’s use of force was appropriate and justified under the circumstances.
The confrontation occurred about 11:20 a.m. Jan. 29, 2013, outside the 7-Eleven at 8312 Hampton Blvd.
A police spokesman told The Pilot in 2013 that an officer – Robertson – approached the vehicle after watching it “driving up and down various streets” in a neighborhood. He added that the officer later saw the same vehicle in an adjacent neighborhood doing the same thing and started following the car until it went into the convenience store parking lot.
According to a letter from Underwood to Norfolk police Chief Michael Goldsmith, Robertson turned on his police car’s lights and siren as it entered the lot.
Mitchell was the backseat passenger in the vehicle. The lawsuit said he got out of the vehicle and walked toward the store with the intention of buying a drink or snack.
Before he could open the store’s door, however, Robertson, in uniform, stopped Mitchell.
The suit said Robertson pointed a handgun at Mitchell and yelled at him to “get the (expletive) back in the vehicle.”
Mitchell responded by running away. The lawsuit said he ran “because he feared Robertson would shoot him,” but prosecutors said at Mitchell’s trial that he told police he ran because he was afraid there was a warrant out for his arrest for unpaid child support.
Robertson, a Marine who served in the Middle East and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD, chased Mitchell for about 30 yards. The lawsuit said the two eventually fell, but Mitchell got back up and ran back to the parking lot, where he got into an idling dark green Chevy Malibu that turned out to be Robertson’s unmarked police car.
The vehicle’s lights were still flashing, Underwood’s letter said.
What happens next is in dispute. Special prosecutor Will Jamerson said at trial that Mitchell put the car in gear and tried to drive away, dragging Robertson in the process.
The lawsuit, however, says Robertson opened fire “without legal justification.”
The lawsuit said Mitchell was unarmed and not “a threat to the safety of himself or others.” It added that “Mitchell did not use the vehicle as a weapon and did not try to strike or otherwise injure Robertson.”
The lawsuit claimed Mitchell put up his hands after the first shot was fired and repeatedly said, “Please don’t shoot.”
The claim is largely supported by a woman who testified at Mitchell’s trial. Latequa Gray said she saw Mitchell raise his hands after the second shot and say, “Please don’t shoot me again.” She said Robertson fired three more times, although forensic evidence indicated he fired only three times total.
Other witnesses testified they saw Mitchell jump into the car and drag the officer as he took off. One said the car did not stop until the officer fired.
Following the shooting, Mitchell was charged with malicious wounding of a police officer, eluding police and grand larceny. His first jury trial ended in a mistrial. The second ended in an acquittal.
Jamerson said at trial that Robertson, who was with Norfolk police for six years, would have to retire as a result of injuries he suffered during the incident.