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Lawsuit claims wrongful death by Dothan police officer

The federal court action seeks damages claiming shooting was unnecessary.
The family of a man shot to death by a Dothan police officer has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit seeking unspecified damages. It alleges Officer Darren Moody acted improperly when he shot Christopher Jerome Thomas to death June 28th, 2012. The lawsuit was filed by an Atlanta attorney representing Christopher’s mother, Katherine Thomas.

Christopher Thomas, 22, died when he was shot to death by Moody following a short pursuit a few blocks north of downtown Dothan. The SUV Thomas was driving then traveled across a busy roadway striking a printing business and injuring one person inside. WDHN/Dothan First has, until now, not identified the officer.

In the lawsuit filed in the Middle District of Alabama it’s alleged that Moody initially believed he was chasing a person other than Thomas. Radio transmissions in a video/audio of the chase obtained exclusively by WDHN/DothanFirst confirm that Moody thought he was chasing Jerry Jerome Hill, a convicted felon also known as “Booty Bop”. The lawsuit claims the only similarity between Thomas and Hill was they both "are African-American."

Thomas was shot to death at the conclusion of the chase in a commercial parking lot along Montgomery Highway. Mrs. Thomas, in the lawsuit, claims her son was shot to death by Moody who she said jumped from his car and began firing shots before giving Christopher Thomas a chance to obey instructions. The lawsuit said Thomas was not moving, and not facing anyone including Moody at the time of the shooting.

The lawsuit claims Thomas was shot five times with all bullets passing Thomas’ in a left-to-right trajectory, including two in the neck. Some witnesses at the scene claim Moody ran toward Thomas’ car and fired at nearly point blank range with the officer never in the path of Thomas’ vehicle. Other witnesses are believed to dispute those claims though their statements are not available to the public at this time.

The shooting was not captured in the video recording---only the chase during which Moody appears to make at least two misrepresentations to dispatchers and supervisors. The officer reported speeds of about 30 miles per hour when his patrol car was actually traveling at nearly 60 miles per hour. He also claimed twice that Thomas’ car attempted to strike an unmarked police car while the video shows Thomas swerved to miss it.

The circumstances surrounding the chase were investigated by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the findings turned over to District Attorney Doug Valeska who, in turn, presented evidence to a Houston County Grand jury that concluded Moody was justified in his actions.

The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined by a jury if it finds in favor of Katherine Thomas. It also seeks court costs and attorney fees from Moody.

Click on the video player above this story to watch chase video.

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