SOUTHERN INDIANA — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the trooper who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in Jeffersonville last April. Also listed as defendants in the court action, which demands a jury trial, are “as-yet unidentified officers from the Indiana State Police.”
Malcolm Williams, 27, died April 29, 2020, from gunshot wounds after Indiana State Police Trooper Clay Boley said he returned fire during the stop of a car in which Williams was a passenger. Boley was at the time on probationary status as a new officer with the Sellersburg post.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana lists eight claims, including excessive force and failure of one or more other officers to intervene the day Williams was shot.
The suit lists Williams’ sister, Ashtyn Williams, as the personal administrator for the estate of Malcolm Williams. No other plaintiffs are listed.
“At the time he was shot, Malcolm was not acting violently, had done nothing to provoke or justify defendant Boley’s brutal and deadly assault and posed no risk of substantial bodily harm to any person,” one part of the 11-page lawsuit reads.
When reached by phone, a representative of the Indiana State Police Sellersburg district said that per departmental policy, the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The News and Tribune previously reported that the stop was made around 1 a.m. on Middle Road in Jeffersonville, and that Williams’ girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant, was driving the two to a restaurant. The trooper said Williams had initially given a false name when questioned during the stop.
After the vehicle was pulled over, the girlfriend began having contractions and Boley allowed Williams to exit the car and walk around to the driver’s side to assist her as the trooper called an ambulance.
Before re-entering the car, Williams was patted down by Boley, who said he found a magazine clip for a semi-automatic weapon. Boley said once Williams got back inside the car, he pulled a gun from the glovebox and fired three shots as the officer returned six, all of which struck Williams, who died within an hour from his injuries.
In July, and after a months-long investigation by the Indiana State Police Versailles district, Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull released findings that under Indiana law, Boley was justified in using deadly force and would not face criminal charges.
Mull’s report included that although the driver of the car had jumped out when shooting began and not seen all of the interaction, her account corroborated what the trooper said happened during the initial part of the stop.
The federal lawsuit agrees with the initial facts given by police, that Boley had stopped the car for a broken taillight and the woman started going into labor. But it says that when Williams returned to the passenger seat after assisting his girlfriend, he told the officer she kept a gun in the car and attempted to hand it to Boley.
“As Malcolm attempted to hand the handgun to the police officer, by holding it in a way that demonstrated he could not shoot the handgun, defendant Boley fatally shot him at least six times,” the lawsuit reads. “Most of those shots hit him in the back.”
Mull said that the investigation showed Williams had been shot twice in the arm and four times in the back, all at close range as the officer stood near the car.
The federal lawsuit disputes the trooper’s account, stating in part that “after the shooting, defendant Boley made up false claims about the number of shots fired to make the unlawful shooting appear justified.”
After Williams’ death, his family and others in the community staged multiple protests in Jeffersonville and other areas in Southern Indiana, calling for footage of the stop to be released.
There was no body-worn or dash camera footage of the stop, the prosecutor previously said. Indiana State Police had very few dash cameras at the time, the News and Tribune reported, and that car was not equipped with one. A news release sent by the plaintiff’s attorneys states that a second officer, as yet unidentified, was on scene but failed to intervene.
The lawsuit lists two claims cited under U.S. code — excessive force and failure to intervene. Six other claims related to state law are included — assault and battery; wrongful death; survival action; intentional infliction of emotional distress; Respondent Superior, which means that Indiana State Police as an agency is responsible for the actions of officers working in the scope of their employment there; and indemnification.
The suit requests judgement including compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs and any other relief the court finds appropriate. No monetary amount is stipulated in the lawsuit.