Delay expected in shooting trial of former public housing police officer

Delay expected in shooting trial of former public housing police officer

April 18th, 2012 by Todd South in News

Lt. Erik Reeves is seen in this Chattanooga file photo.

Photo by Gillian Bolsover

A federal civil trial set for a former public housing police officer in the 2009 shooting death of a 15-year-old boy likely will be delayed at least a couple of months after a new attorney took over the defense.

Lawyers for the victim's mother and the Chattanooga Housing Authority met Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter to discuss expert witnesses and rescheduling the trial, which currently is set for December.

W. Lee Madux took over the case for the housing authority when the original attorney, Paul Krivacka, took a job with the state of Tennessee and had to turn over his caseload to others in the Nashville-based firm.

Madux told Carter that he and his law partner have a three-week trial scheduled for late November, which would overlap with the Dec. 10 start date for the trial.

In September 2009, Gloria Duncan filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court seeking $2 million in damages for the shooting death of her son Alonzo O'Kelley by then-Chattanooga Housing Authority police Lt. Erik Reeves.

The suit named the housing authority, Reeves and housing police Chief Felix Vess. The chief was dismissed from the lawsuit in December 2010.

On July 1, 2009, at 8:40 p.m., housing cameras captured footage of a black Dodge Durango driving past O'Kelley and another person on Fourth Avenue. Occupants in the Durango fired gunshots at the pair. O'Kelley returned fire and fled on foot into East Lake Courts.

Reeves responded to the shots-fired call in the 2500 block of Fourth Avenue and could be heard by witnesses yelling, "Get on the ground!" according to Times Free Press archives.

One of the pair followed Reeves' order and got on the ground. O'Kelley began running in the opposite direction.

In interviews with investigators, Reeves said that O'Kelley raised his gun as he ran. Witnesses on the scene said O'Kelley never raised his gun.

An autopsy report showed a single bullet wound to O'Kelley's back.

O'Kelley's death, along with two other officer-involved shootings in Chattanooga and East Ridge about the same time, sparked intense public outcry. O'Kelley's death prompted the local chapter of the NAACP to conduct an investigation, which later called for more diversity training for local police.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation compiled a report on the incident, as the agency does with all officer-involved shootings.

Investigators turned that over to District Attorney General Bill Cox in 2010. He did not find enough probable cause to seek an indictment on criminal charges against Reeves.

In April 2011, housing attorneys requested the case be moved to federal court.

During Tuesday's hearing, Duncan's attorney, John Wolfe Jr., told Carter that he had made an offer for settlement to the previous housing attorney and it had been declined.