The family of Luke Stewart filed a federal lawsuit today against the city of Euclid and the two police officers who were directly involved in his March 2017 shooting death — including Matthew Rhodes, the officer who “entered into Luke’s car and beat, tased, and shot Luke multiple times, killing him.”
In August, a Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict Rhodes for his role in Stewart’s death.
The lawsuit comes seven months after the shooting, the details of which remained rather murky during an ongoing state investigation. The state admitted early, however, that Stewart was unarmed when he was shot and killed. He was not accused of committing a crime that day, when officers approached him while he slept in his car in Euclid. A brief chase ensued before Rhodes climbed into Stewart’s car and shot him.
The family seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as certain reforms from the Euclid Police Department that target the “policies, practices, and customs shown to encourage the use of excessive and unreasonable force and the extrajudicial shooting of civilians, particularly African-Americans …”
A response from the city is expected within three weeks.
For several months now, community members have joined the Stewart family in demanding answers from the city of Euclid. While the investigation was being handled by the state attorney general’s office, city leaders tended to pass the buck onto the BCI. Now, however, the spotlight remains firmly on the city and police department’s ability to communicate what comes next and how they plan to heal the deepening divisions.
Just a few months after Stewart’s death, of course, officer Michael Amiott was seen beating a black man on a street. That incident prompted calls for change from the community, as well, to the point where it almost became confusing during a recent Euclid City Council meeting: Which case of police violence in Euclid were people talking about now?