Lebanon settles lawsuit

Jake Old • Updated Oct 14, 2016 at 9:00 AM

The city of Lebanon has settled a lawsuit with Melinda Thompson in the shooting death of Gregory Thompson Jr. Melinda Thompson is the stepmother of Gregory Thompson and the administrator of his estate.

Gregory Thompson was killed by former Lebanon police officers David McKinley and Mitchell McDannald in 2010 after a traffic stop. The lawsuit was against the city and both police officers involved in the incident.

Terms of the settlement were not made publicly available. An attorney representing Melinda Thompson confirmed the settlement but could not comment about the details in the case due to a confidentiality agreement.

According to the attorney, the attorneys representing Melinda Thompson, and Thompson herself, agreed to not publicly discuss the details of the settlement.

Numerous calls to Lebanon city attorney Andy Wright were not returned this week.

In July, an appeal by the city of Lebanon before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was denied. The city moved for the appeal to overturn a previous decision not to apply qualified immunity to the police officers and argued that officers did not violate Gregory Thompson’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Qualified immunity protects government officials from standing trial for civil liability while performing their job, unless their actions violate clearly established rights. A reversal would have essentially ended the case by granting the defendants immunity.

In April 2010, McKinley and McDannald were on patrol when they came across Gregory Thompson. According to testimony, McKinley was driving on the Highway 70 bypass east of Lebanon at around 2:30 a.m., when Thompson’s vehicle apparently came within inches of hitting McKinley’s patrol car head-on as he swerved into oncoming traffic.

Thompson then turned his vehicle around and headed east out of Lebanon on Carthage Highway. After an approximate six-minute, low-speed pursuit, Thompson swerved off the road and into a ditch, and officers claimed he was non-compliant when they approached him.

McKinley apparently ordered Thompson out of the vehicle, and when Thompson did not comply, McKinley went into the ditch with his weapon drawn to forcibly remove Thompson from the car.

As McKinley approached the vehicle, he apparently slipped and fell, accidentally discharging his firearm.

McDannald, apparently thinking his fellow officer was being fired upon, fired 13 rounds from his weapon, killing Thompson at the scene.

According to the findings in the denied appeal in July the shooting ended within 19 seconds of the vehicle crash. Thompson sat behind the wheel of his vehicle the entire time and did not make any threatening moves. It is not known if he was conscious at the time of the wreck.

A Wilson County grand jury declined to indict the two officers, and the incident was declared an accidental shooting.

Following the non-indictment, Melinda Thompson, Gregory Thompson’s stepmother and the administrator over his estate, filed a wrongful death suit against the officers and the city of Lebanon. She alleged that the officers used excessive force to seize Gregory Thompson in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, protecting against an unlawful search and seizure, and that the city was liable for the actions of those police officers.

The officers and the city claimed that there was no seizure of Gregory Thompson because he remained in the vehicle and McKinley’s initial shot did not hit Thompson.

All defendants in the case wanted the officers to have qualified immunity, due to the alleged accidental nature of the shooting. The United States District Court granted qualified immunity to the officer’s supervisors, but not McKinley or McDannald.

In 2013, McKinley’s employment with the police department was terminated following an incident at a local bar. 

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