3 Arkansas men reach settlement in mall shooting case

August 4, 2020 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The three men who filed a lawsuit over a 2011 shooting by an off-duty police officer working security at a Little Rock mall have reached a settlement in the case, but the details of the agreement haven’t been released.

Christopher Johannes shot at driver Joseph Williams and passengers Keith Pettus and Johnnie Campbell 12 times while they were at Park Plaza mall in December 2011. Johannes, a Little Rock police officer, was off-duty at the time of the shooting and working as mall security.

Campbell was not hit, but all three men sued Johannes, the mall and the city in 2017, saying the excessive use of force violated their civil rights.

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Johannes shot at the men after a woman complained that a group of men tried persuading her 17-year-old daughter to get in their car, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Johannes and another guard spotted the car backing out when Johannes asked Williams to stop, but he kept driving. Johannes said he feared for his and his partner’s safety, according to the newspaper.

City attorneys said Williams kept backing out was because he had drugs and guns in the car, which police said they found. Williams pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges and went to prison for violating his probation.

On Monday, Willard Proctor Jr., attorney for the three men, filed an agreed stipulation of dismissal, asking U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson to dismiss the case permanently.

“The parties have reached an agreement regarding all matters before the court,” Proctor wrote.

Proctor couldn’t reached for comment. No details on the settlement were revealed.

The mall’s attorney, Mark Breeding, said Monday that the paperwork hasn’t been completed. He declined to say if the mall paid to settle the lawsuit.

The city’s attorney, Alexander Betton, couldn’t be reached for comment by the newspaper.

In 2018, Wilson refused to let Johannes escape liability on the grounds that he was doing his job and was protected by immunity. But the city appealed, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, upheld Wilson’s rulings in September.

Wilson had also dismissed the city and a former police chief from the lawsuit but said a federal jury needed to decide whether the men posed an immediate threat to Johannes or others. The trial had been set for Aug. 25.