CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. — The family of a 22-year-old man killed in an officer-involved shooting following a car chase is suing the heads of several local law enforcement agencies, alleging excessive use of force.
Thomas Blowers, the uncle of Andrew Blowers and now the legal representative of his estate following Andrew's death filed suit in Michigan's Western District Federal Court on Wednesday against Chief Jim Blocker of the Battle Creek Police Department, and Sheriff Steven Hinckley of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.
The city of Battle Creek, the county board of commissioners, and Battle Creek Police Officers Patrick Herson and Steven Herbstreith are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, the family asks for $500,000 in compensatory damages and another $15,000,000 in punitive damages.
Blowers was killed by officer's bullets following a chase that police say reached speeds of 90 mph. Officers fired at his vehicle after they say he accelerated his vehicle towards them.
Blowers' mother, Charese Watson, sent a letter to the county prosecutor's office back in December, urging him to press charges against the officers involved, arguing that she believes unnecessary force was used.
"He didn’t deserve to be executed. I totally believe that he was executed," said Watson, who also hired a police procedure expert who deemed alternative actions could have been taken in her son's case.
The prosecutor's office had previously found the officer's actions to be justified.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks monetary damages, saying in part, "A Calhoun County Sheriff deputy unlawfully used excessive and deadly force when he shot Plaintiff’s decedent at point-blank range, killing him. All Defendants repeatedly shot decedent, although he posed no threat of serious harm to the officers or others, and violating his constitutional rights and other rights afforded to him by common and statutory law."
The suit is expected to go back in front of a judge in the coming weeks.
Officers with the Battle Creek Police Department say they observed 22-year-old Andrew Blowers driving at a high rate of speed through a residential neighborhood near Main Street in Battle Creek. Officers suspected Blowers was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The vehicle was weaving to the extent of driving through someone's yard on Warren. Police say Blowers had also run multiple stop signs.
When officers tried to pull over Blowers, the vehicle did not stop for their emergency lights. A pursuit ensued, reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour. Blowers later lost control of the vehicle, coming to rest momentarily in a ditch near a patch of trees.
Police say Officer Herbstreith stopped his patrol vehicle in front of Blowers, while other officers approached the vehicle ordering instructions for Blowers to get out of the car. Blowers was revving the engine, which was in gear, spinning the wheels trying to get the vehicle out of the trees.
Officer O'Connell, also on scene, stated he was in fear he may be hit by the vehicle and moved back. When the car broke free, Blowers began driving toward Officer Herbstreith, who back peddled as the vehicle accelerated toward him. That's when officers began firing shots at Blowers.
Multiple shots were fired. The pathologist recovered three bullets from Blowers' body, who was pronounced dead at the scene. The toxicology report indicated Blowers had a blood alcohol content level of .138 with THC also in his system.