BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The estate of a man killed by officers last year is suing, alleging the Battle Creek police officers and Calhoun County sheriff’s deputy who opened fire “used unnecessary, excessive, reckless and deadly force.”
The suit filed Wednesday in federal court on behalf of Andrew Blowers, 22, of Marshall, names the defendants as the city of Battle Creek, Battle Creek Police Department Chief Jim Blocker, BCPD Officers Patrick Herson and Steven Herbstreith, the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners, Calhoun County Sheriff Steven Hinkley and Deputy Brandon Hatch.
Blowers died Sept. 5 after leading police on a high-speed chase along I-94 and other roads. BCPD officers had tried to pull him over on suspicion of drunken driving. When he didn’t stop, more officers and the deputy joined the chase. The chase ended when Blowers crashed on dead-end Logistics Drive, between Skyline Drive and the airport, in Battle Creek. At that point, Herson, Herbstreith and Hatch approached Blowers’ car with their guns drawn.
When the car started to move, the officers started shooting. Authorities say Blowers was driving toward the officers. Blowers drove a short way away and crashed again in the woods. He had been hit multiple times and died at the scene.
The Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office ruled in December that Herson, Herbsteith and Hatch were justified in shooting Blowers because he posed a threat to them and others. Criminal charges were not filed.
But the lawsuit claims the officers used excessive force in violation of Blowers’ state and constitutional rights, that the city, county, chief and sheriff failed to properly train their officers in the appropriate use of force — specifically against people with mental illnesses, like Blowers — that the officers were grossly negligent in their duty. It also alleges the officers assaulted Blowers and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
The suit argues Blowers wasn’t a threat to the officers and that they could have easily gotten away from his car. It adds they should have warned him they were going to open fire before they started shooting.
“This is not exclusively a Black problem, or issue or challenge,” said Leonard Mungo, one of the attorneys representing the Blowers case. “Or a white problem, issue or challenge. It’s an American problem, issue and challenge. And we must do something about this. We must simply do something about this.”
The lawsuit claims more than 20 shots were fired at Blowers’ vehicle. The shots that killed him hit him in the back and right flank, the lawsuit says. It adds that he didn’t have a gun.
“We have to do something about it and filing this kind of lawsuit and being successful at it will create the kind of deterrents and discouragement in these agencies from having reckless disregard for the need for training and proper supervision of their police officers,” Mungo said.
Jim Dyer, corporation counsel for Calhoun County, said in a statement provided to News 8 that the county will “vigorously defend the actions of the officers,” adding that “Mr. Blowers was a substantial factor in the outcome of the incident.”
The suit asks for in excess of $15 million in punitive damages and another $500,000 more compensatory damages, as well as attorney fees, interests and costs.