Law professor sees 'huge factual dispute' in damage suit filed in police shooting

By John Breslin | Oct 29, 2018

Details of a controversial shooting of a St. Louis woman at the home of her brother are likely to be aired when a federal damage suit filed by the woman goes to court. 

It is a confusing case, largely because there is a "huge factual dispute," Ben Trachtenberg, an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School, told the St. Louis Record.

Jennifer Morgan-Tyra, 42, recently filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against Andrei Nikolov, a St. Louis police officer; the city of St. Louis; and the city's police department, a posting on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said..

Morgan-Tyra, the wife of a lieutenant in the St. Louis sheriff's office, was paralyzed after being shot multiple times in May, 2015.

Ben Trachtenberg   University of Missouri Law School website photo

She was later charged with assault of a law enforcement officer and criminal action. The charges were dropped last year after a judge denied prosecutors further time to develop their case.

Morgan-Tyra is seeking damages for excessive force, false arrest, and conspiracy involving the officer, the city and police department.

Nikolov, the officer at the center of the shooting, had initially indicated he would not testify in the criminal case because of a separate investigation being conducted into his actions on the evening of the shooting.

But the charges were dropped after prosecutors asked the judge for more time because Nikolov was on vacation at the time the trial was due to proceed, according to multiple news reports.

In the complaint, Morgan-Tyra alleges she was shot in the back, but the police story is that she was facing them, pointing a gun and was shot in the front, Trachtenberg said.

Trachtenberg said the civil filing was likely held up by the criminal charges Morgan-Tyra faced, and if that had been successfully prosecuted, it would have made any civil case much more difficult to win, and the plaintiff less sympathetic.

Morgan-Tyra was in a coma for eight days, suffered internal injuries and is paralyzed from the lower back down, according to the lawsuit. She claims she was holding an "intruder" at gun point. The intruder was holding a screwdriver, the complaint states.

She further claims she was shot at least nine times in the back by an officer who failed to identify himself.

In an interview shortly after the shooting with Fox2 St. Louis, a Karla Nicholson identified herself as the individual referred to as the intruder. She was an acquaintance of Morgan-Tyra's brother.

Police said officers were called to the the address and when they arrived they saw a "screaming" man fleeing the house.

They further stated that after entering the house, Morgan-Tyra ignored an order to drop the gun and raised the weapon toward the officers, at which point she was shot.

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