Bystander Paralyzed After Being Shot by Goshen Police Sues Officer and City

A bystander who was shot by Goshen police this spring while they pursued an armed suspect is now suing the city of Goshen and the officer who shot him.

Fernando Cuevas, 68, was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot once in the shoulder by Sgt. Gregory Smith.

The lawsuit was filed last week in the U.S. District Court of Northern Indiana. Among many claims, the suit argues excessive force, battery, negligence and that Cuevas was deprived of “life, liberty and property.”

It all started about 9:30 a.m. April 5 when citizens began reporting attempted carjackings and shots fired in the area of Lincolnway East (the U.S. 33 corridor) and Kercher Road, according to police. At least three people reported being confronted at gunpoint by 19-year-old Michael Alcaraz, who was armed with a shotgun, as he attempted to steal their cars.

Alcaraz slowed and even stopped during a police pursuit along Lincolnway East that ended when the 19-year-old pulled into the parking lot at Double D’s Hometown Bar and Grill, 827 Lincolnway East.

Cuevas was in the parking lot that morning collecting bottles with permission from the business owner.

Alcaraz got out of his vehicle and ran around the north side of the bar.

Alcaraz was still in possession of the shotgun and fired two shots at officers Coty Brown and Todd Shidler. Both officers returned fire, with Brown firing 17 shots and Shidler firing eight. Neither officer was hurt; however, Alcaraz was fatally wounded.

Smith, attempting to encounter Alcaraz, went around the opposite side of the building from the other officers. Hearing the gunfire between Alcaraz and his fellow officers, Smith saw a man, later identified as Cuevas, and fired two shots.

“Given Sgt. Smith’s knowledge concerning the type of weapon that Alcaraz possessed, information known to him and other officers, and standard police practices for similar circumstances, the act of shooting an innocent bystander shocks the conscience,” the suit reads.

In June, Elkhart County Prosecutor Vickie Becker announced there would be no criminal charges filed in connection to the shooting, saying it was justified based on the “profound threat” Alcaraz posed.

“Both Officer Shidler and Officer Brown were certainly justified in using force to neutralize Mr. Alcaraz as he was a profound threat to the public safety,” Becker told The Tribune in June. “Sgt. Smith as he rounded the building was believing in his mind, ‘I am going to engage the shooter and I have to stop him in order to protect my community,’ and he fired two shots unfortunately striking a citizen but also trying to work to protect us.”

Smith is a 30-year veteran of the Goshen Police Department.

Cuevas’ attorney, Indianapolis-based Scott Barnhart, is asking for a jury trial and compensatory damages for emotional distress and loss of wages and benefits. No hearings or deadlines have been set in the case.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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