Wrongful death lawsuit filed over fatal shooting by Houston sheriff’s deputy

bpurser@macon.comJanuary 23, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in federal court regarding the 2011 fatal shooting of a suspected burglar by a Houston County sheriff’s deputy.

The lawsuit alleges sheriff’s Deputy Steven Glidden fatally shot 19-year-old Robert Kendrick Chambers once in the back of the head Jan. 24, 2011, in a pecan orchard near Feagin Mill Middle School as Chambers was fleeing. Glidden shot Chambers “merely to prevent his escape,” the lawsuit states.

Sharese M. Wells, Chambers’ mother and administrator of his estate, filed the lawsuit Jan. 17 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia against Glidden and Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton. Talton and Glidden were not reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges the unreasonable use of deadly force against a fleeing suspect and seeks the value of Chambers’ life and damages to be determined by a jury as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

Winston A. Denmark, a Jonesboro attorney representing Wells, said a GBI investigation into the shooting and a review by the Houston County District Attorney’s office found the officer did not do anything wrong and that there was no undue use of lethal force. However, he disputes those findings.

Glidden faced no disciplinary action in relation to the shooting, Denmark said.

Chambers was shot after he tried to pull a weapon out of a coat pocket in the scuffle with the deputy, Houston County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Billy Rape said the day of the incident. Rape could not to be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

However, by his own admission, Glidden said he reloaded the magazine of his weapon after it fell to the ground in the scuffle and that he fired upon Chambers as he was fleeing, Denmark said.

In a supplemental sheriff’s report Denmark provided to The Telegraph, Glidden details a scuffle in which he attempts to get Chambers’ gun, and Chambers attempts to get the deputy’s gun. The deputy’s gun falls so hard to the ground that its magazine is dislodged. He uses the Taser on Chambers. The deputy is also shocked in the process. Chambers starts to crawl away. Glidden states that Chambers then gets up, and an armed Chambers attempts to run toward the residential area. Glidden states he finds the magazine and fires the fatal shot at Chambers.

Taser video shows that at some point during the encounter with Glidden, Chambers was on his hands and knees, obeying commands, the lawsuit states. The Telegraph could not obtain a copy of the video Wednesday.

Although there is no evidence the gun found belonged to Chambers, even it were his gun, Denmark contended Chambers did not have it on him when he was shot. He said the gun was found at some distance from Chambers’ body.

Also, regardless of the disputed series of events just before the shooting, what matters is what was happening the moment the deputy pulled the trigger, Denmark said.

“Glidden shot Chambers in the back of head, though it defies logic that Glidden would have been in fear for his own life since Chambers was running away from him,” the lawsuit states.

Denmark argued the law does not allow the use of excessive force to stop a fleeing suspect.

“That’s not due process, that’s not justice, that’s murder,” Denmark said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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