Fugitive wounded in shootout with McLennan County deputies files civil rights lawsuit
Sheriff says lawsuit against deputies has no merit
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A fugitive from Louisiana wounded after he exchanged gunfire with McLennan County sheriff’s deputies in December 2019 has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the three officers.
Douglas Eric Hill alleges in a lawsuit filed in Waco’s U.S. District Court that sheriff’s deputies Cody Blossman, Chris Evans and Jason Sandell failed to properly identify themselves as officers and used unnecessary and excessive force when they confronted Hill near an apartment complex on Lake Air Drive.
Hill, 31, who remains in the McLennan County Jail under bonds totaling $300,000, also alleges the officers tried to execute outstanding warrants against Hill in a manner that “unreasonably would increase the likelihood that they would have to use deadly force.”
The deputies are members of the Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team and were acting on a tip that Hill, who was shot four times in the incident, was seen near an apartment complex.
A McLennan County grand jury reviewing the shooting cleared the three officers of criminal wrongdoing in February 2020.
Dallas attorneys John Husted and Thomas Brandt, who are representing the deputies in the civil lawsuit, did not return phone messages Thursday.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said Thursday his officers acted properly and the lawsuit is without merit.
“Our deputies acted in self-defense when that guy opened fire and they acted appropriately to protect themselves and the community,” McNamara said. “This was a very dangerous individual.”
In response to the lawsuit, Husted and Brandt assert Hill, who is not represented by an attorney in the civil case, failed to allege a claim and the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity.
U.S. District Judge Alan Albright, of Waco, has ordered that all matters in the civil case be stayed until Hill’s criminal case is resolved.
Hill was indicted on a first-degree felony aggravated assault on a peace officer charge by the same grand jury that cleared the deputies. He has a tentative June 13 trial setting in the criminal case in Waco’s 19th State District Court.
After the shooting, Hill also was arrested on two third-degree felony charges of manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. He has not been indicted on those charges.
The members of the FAST unit received information that Hill, a fugitive wanted on multiple felony warrants by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office in Shreveport, was in Waco.
An arrest warrant affidavit states the officers identified themselves as police and Hill began firing. No deputies were injured, but Hill was struck four times.
Deputies found about 80 grams of methamphetamine in Hill’s backpack, according to the affidavit. Officials also found 2.9 grams of cocaine on Hill, along with a .25-caliber handgun and two 9 mm handguns, according to arrest affidavits.
Hill’s lawsuit alleges the officers could have avoided the use of deadly force “by a simple command to drop the weapon and they failed to attempt such less-than-lethal means before using deadly force.”
“Cody Blossman, Chris Evans and Jason Sandell acted in a wanton, reckless manner, and with malicious purpose,” the suit alleges.
Hill says in his lawsuit that he “acquired a few enemies” during his short time in Waco and he thought the deputies, who approached in an unmarked, undercover van equipped with flashing lights, was someone who wanted to rob or kill him.
“When the vehicle veered across the street as if it was going to run me over, I turned to my left and started running back across Lake Air Dr. from where I came,” Hill alleges in the lawsuit. “I started hearing gunfire and then there was darkness.”
Copyright 2022 KWTX. All rights reserved.