A mentally ill man accidentally shot by a Fort Worth police officer is suing the company that made the shotgun, alleging a design or manufacturing defect was at fault for the incident.
Craigory Adams filed a lawsuit late last week in Tarrant County civil court against Remington Arms Co. stemming from the June 2015 altercation between Adams and former Fort Worth police officer Courtney Johnson. The officer says he doesn’t remember pulling the trigger.
Johnson shot Adams because he thought he had a knife. Later, it was discovered to be a barbecue fork.
Johnson stood trial for recklessly handling his shotgun in May, but a jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial. He was eventually fired by Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, despite the fact that the Tarrant County district attorney’s office said it had no plans to retry the case.
Adams, who was struck in the right arm, said his injuries have left him with significantly impaired movement due to severe nerve damage. He has also been hospitalized for depression, lack of sleep and night terrors, according to court documents. Adams is seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in damages.
David Patin, Adams’ attorney, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Remington Arms also did not respond to similar requests.
Jim Lane, an attorney who represented Johnson in his criminal trial, summarily rejected the idea that there was something wrong with the Remington 870 shotgun. He said experts broke down the gun and couldn’t find anything wrong.
“There was nothing wrong with the gun,” Lane said. “We could not find anything wrong with it.”
Johnson testified during his trial that he was responding to a report of a man holding a knife. A neighbor called 911 after Adams knocked on the door with what eventually was determined to be a barbecue fork.
Johnson, who had taken his shotgun off safety and slid the pump action back as he pointed the weapon, said he was apprehensive because Adams did not immediately drop the fork and go to his knees as commanded. He had his trigger finger ready and that is when the gun went off.
Texas Department of Public Safety Cmdr. Albert Rodriguez, who has trained troopers on use-of-force issues, testified that Johnson was following standard police training when he turned off the safety and pointed the gun at Adams.
During the trial, Rodriguez attributed the unintentional shotgun discharge to a physical phenomenon called a contralateral contraction, or sympathetic reflex, in which there is the tendency of the muscles in one hand to mimic the actions of the other, Lane said.
Johnson “has no memory of pulling that trigger,” Lane said.
In firing Johnson, Fitzgerald later labeled his actions as careless, saying he shouldn’t have “racked his shotgun and pulled the trigger.” Johnson is appealing his termination.
In December 2015, Adams sued Johnson over the incident, using virtually the same petition. But in May 2016 the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it can’t be pursued in court again.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.