COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - The widow of a Collierville man who was shot and killed by police outside his home last summer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Town of Collierville and one of its police officers.
The lawsuit was originally filed in state court but was moved to federal court at the request of the defendants.
Alice Hoal, the woman who filed the suit, says Collierville police violated her husband's civil rights and used excessive force when they confronted him.
On June 3, 2019, Collierville police officers responded to a home on Valleywood Cove for a possibly suicidal man with a gun.
When officers arrived, they found 59-year-old David Hoal in his backyard.
“After repeated demands for the man to drop the weapon at some point, for reasons still under investigation, at least one of the officers opened fire striking and killing the man,” Keli McAlister, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said at the time.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich asked TBI to investigate the shooting.
Jeffrey Rosenblum is the attorney for David Hoal's widow, Alice.
"Mrs. Hoal had called 911 to the Town of Collierville to let them know that her husband was depressed, that he had some mental health issues, that he wasn't taking his medicine, that he was suicidal, that he had a gun, that he was saying he wanted to end his life," said Rosenblum. "She never mentioned that she was afraid for her own life."
Alice says her husband was never a threat to anyone but himself.
But in her lawsuit, she says Collierville police officer Austin Waguespack was quick in firing his weapon and shot her husband "without provocation" and without giving him enough time to comply.
“It’s less than four seconds from the time the officer begins yelling ‘Drop the gun! Drop the gun!’ before he shoots (Mr. Hoal) with an AR-15, a bullet through the heart,” said Rosenblum. “Mrs. Hoal sees her husband. The gun is pointed to the ground.”
Rosenblum said Hoal simply needed help.
“The man was in his backyard. He was suicidal. He needed help, but instead, the calvary came,” said Rosenblum. “The militarization of our police force we see again.”
Rosenblum said police were called to the couple's home the night before the shooting, but police left after determining Mr. Hoal wasn't a danger.
Rosenblum said the last year has been devastating for his client. He says recent protests against police brutality have had an impact on her.
"She sees what happened to her own husband and is afraid that it will continue to happen until people like her speak out and say enough is enough," said Rosenblum.
But Attorney Edward J. McKenney, Jr., who represents the Town of Collierville and Officer Wageuspack, says the officer feared for everyone's safety, including Mrs. Hoal's.
"He viewed Mr. Hoal as presenting an imminent threat to her safety and the safety of himself and the other officers and he had to make a split-second judgment," said McKenney.
McKenney says Hoal had his gun in a position where it would take a millisecond for him to shoot his wife or the officers.
He says Waguespack, who remains on the police force, had no choice.
"Nobody would say that Officer Waguespack woke up that day and wanted to shoot someone," said McKenney. "That's the last thing he or any other Collierville officer wants to do. You do not want to have to shoot. But he felt like he had no choice under the circumstances. We want to protect our residents and that's what he was doing that day."
McAlister said TBI finished its investigation and turned its findings over to Weirich earlier this year.
Rosenblum says there is an audio recording that captured Waguespack seeming to admit to another officer that Hoal’s weapon wasn’t pointed at him when he fired his weapon.
McKenney said there is a recording that captured his client making a comment, but he said the comment wasn't fully explained.
"You can't take one comment out of context and rely upon that," said McKenney.
Rosenblum says the audio and other files are now in the possession of Weirich’s office.
The D.A.'s office told WMC Action News 5 the case is still under review.
“It’s in the review process. We’ll announce something when the case is completed,” said Larry Buser with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office.