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District of Columbia Police Face Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The District of Columbia, as well as several District police officers, is facing a $60 million wrongful death lawsuit from the family of a woman slain, along with her two children, while police officers waited outside her door. In the lawsuit, the family of Erika Peters cites a "deadly delay" on behalf of police officers, some of whom waited 45 minutes for supervisors to give the okay on staging a forcible entry.

A police spokeswoman defended the officers following the allegations, acknowledging the tragedy, but saying that officers routinely require an official go-ahead before conducting a forcible entry into an individual's home.

While the force allows officers to use their own discretion, going in without such approval is generally frowned upon.

On March 21, 2009, District police officers responded to a 911 call during which a child could be heard screaming and then a man yelling. When officers arrived on the scene, they could hear the violence from inside, but decided to wait for a supervisor to give them the okay for entry.

They waited 45 minutes for a police captain to arrive and approve the forcible entry. They waited another five minutes for the fire department to show up with tools to break the door down.

By the time they entered the house, Erika Peters and her two sons, ages 10 and 11, were dead. Her boyfriend, Joseph R. Mays, who was found in the bathroom, pled guilty to three counts of second-degree murder earlier this year.

The police spokeswoman refused to answer questions related to the force's forcible entry policy and whether or not it had been changed since the murders.

Related Resource

  • 'Deadly delay': Police wait while mother, sons slain (The Washington Examiner)

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