The family of a man shot and killed by Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Mikey Ashurst in June 2016, has filed a lawsuit against the county, sheriff’s department, Ashurst and Constable Brandon Bolton.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, claims intentional homicide and violation of the constitutional rights of the man, Jesse J. Mills.
The incident occurred June 29, 2016 on Ky. 223 in the Flat Lick community in eastern Knox County.
Ashurst and Bolton were responding to a complaint that Mills was intoxicated at a residence on Moore Creek Road off of Ky. 223 and had kidnapped a two-year-old child.
A search ensued and the officers found Mills and the child walking along Ky. 223 about 11 p.m.
As officers approached Mills an altercation ensued and the Knox County Deputy Sheriff’s deputy (Ashurst) discharged his service weapon at the suspect fatally wounding Mills,” said Trooper Lloyd Cochran, a public affairs officer for the state police.
Further investigation by state police determined that the officers had ordered Mills to release the child. However, Mills charged the officers and when ordered to stop, he refused to do so.
Ashurst then deployed his Taser, but the weapon was not effective. As a result, Ashurst went for his gun, shooting and killing Mills.
Mills was pronounced dead at the scene. The child, who was uninjured, was returned to the custody of family members.
Ashurst and Bolton were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by state police.
Following the preliminary investigation, Ashurst was cleared to return to work on July 17, 2016.
The results of the investigation were presented to a Knox County grand jury in August 2016.
On Aug. 29, 2016, the grand jury found “no true bill” against the officers, meaning the grand jury did not find sufficient evidence to indict Ashurst and/or Bolton.
“Deputy Ashurst has been a police officer for over six years and has been with the Sheriff’s Department for almost two years now,” said Knox County Sheriff Mike Smith. “He is a graduate of Kentucky Criminal Justice Training Academy and is a Kentucky Police Officer Professional Standards certified police officer. He is also up to date on all required annual training. He has a clean record with our office.”
Attorneys for the family assert that the incident was nothing like what state police described in the report.
We have an unbiased witness and an autopsy report that demonstrate that Officer Ashurst repeatedly tazered Mr. Mills, far more than was necessary to subdue an unarmed man,” said Ms. Gambrel’s attorney, Elliot Slosar of the civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. “To add insult to injury, Officer Ashurst then repeatedly kicked Mr. Mills while he laid on the ground, writhing in agony and presenting no threat to the officers or anyone else. Officer Ashurst then shot Mr. Mills, not once, but twice, needlessly killing him.”
The lawsuit alleges that the child’s guardian was with Mills and the child at the time of the shooting and they were walking toward a gas station after Mills’ vehicle had run out of gas.
The plaintiffs allege that when Ashurst approached Mills, the first thing the deputy did was grab his arm and hit him in the head with a large flashlight.
“Mr. Mills relinquished control of his daughter to the Defendants (Ashurst and Bolton),” the lawsuit states adding that Ashurst then return the child to the guardian.
The lawsuit alleges that after repeatedly beating Mills, leaving him dazed and confused, Ashurst shot him once in the stomach from a range of approximately six feet.
“Mr. Mills, in excruciating pain, stooped over from the first gunshot wound,” the lawsuit states. “When he began to lift up his head, defendant Ashurst fired a second shot to Mr. Mills’ chest.”
The lawsuit claims that the use of force by the officers was unnecessary as they knew that Mills was unarmed and never made any threatening moves toward them.
Mr. Mills never reached for, nor possessed, a weapon during his interaction with the Defendants,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that Kentucky State Police conducting the investigation were not acting in an impartial manner, but were solely interesting in proving that Mills had resisted to justify the shooting.
“Because of his status as a police officer, defendant Ashurst has not been held accountable for his actions by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department,” the lawsuit claims.
“Instead, and despite the cries of a grieving community, the Knox County Sheriff’s Department has endorsed Defendant Ashurst’s actions – an act of deliberate indifference to the senseless and unlawful killing of Jessie Mills at the hands of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department,” Mills’ family stated in the suit.