Family of man killed by Spokane police while unloading van after camping trip files lawsuit

March 10 – The family of a 41-year-old man who was shot and killed by Spokane police last fall while unloading his truck from a camping trip in his front yard filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday unfair

The children of Robert Bradley and their mother allege neglect and a pattern of police violence.

“His two children lived with him and he took them fishing, camping and shooting,” family attorney Rondi Thorp wrote. “He dreamed of being a home owner and recently made that dream a reality when he bought his first home in Hillyard.”

Bradley, his children, and his girlfriend returned from a Labor Day camping trip on the afternoon of Sept. 9, according to the lawsuit. Bradley began unloading the family’s van, which included guns and other camping gear.

A neighbor who previously had a dispute over property lines with Bradley saw him unloading the car and carrying a gun.

The 34-year-old called police just after 6:30 p.m. asking officers to serve a temporary protection order against Bradley, but no officers were available for the non-emergency call, according to court records and the cause.

Bradley and his girlfriend, Sarah McLaughlin, decided to go to Pig Out in the Park shortly after arriving home.

Around 10 p.m., Scott called a police sergeant directly to report that Bradley had returned home and was again carrying a gun in his own backyard, the lawsuit says.

Three Spokane police officers, including Chris Johnson and Trevor Walker, responded to Bradley’s home shortly thereafter. Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl declined to comment on the case or the lawsuit, noting that the police department leaves comment on pending litigation to its attorneys.

On the security camera footage, Bradley can be seen exiting his home, unlocking his van and leaning in to grab some gear, the suit says. Bradley had been at the door for about a minute when officers entered the area on foot without sirens.

Bradley was hard of hearing and wore hearing aids, the lawsuit said. It is not known if he was wearing his hearing aids or glasses at the time of the shooting.

Body camera footage from the shooting has not been released to Thorp; however, he received a statement from the detective investigating the shooting.

The detective says body camera footage shows officers approaching Bradley and yelling “Spokane police.” Bradley responds by looking toward the officers and begins to get out of his van, at which point “a barrage of gunfire begins,” according to the detective’s statement cited in the lawsuit.

Police shot Bradley nine times within seconds of approaching his van, according to the lawsuit.

The officers shot Bradley less than five seconds after announcing their presence. They do not allow him enough time to register his presence, and not only to comply with the orders, he supports the process.

A forensic examination of the gun found near Bradley shows it was never fired and no shell casings matching the gun were found at the scene, according to the lawsuit.

“Spokane Police Officers approached Mr. Bradley’s home in a negligent, aggressive and dangerous manner,” the lawsuit states.

Spokane police have killed 18 people since 2013, according to the Police Scorecard, the lawsuit notes.

Spokane police shot and killed five people in 2022, tied with 2017 for the most police shootings in the past 20 years, according to Spokesman-Review records.

The lawsuit comes months after the city of Spokane reached a $4 million settlement with the family of David Novak, who was killed by police in 2019. Thorp also represented the Novak family.

Thorp noted that, as in the Novak case, the officers shot Bradley within seconds of arriving and without taking enough time to assess the situation. Johnson and Walker were present during Novak’s shooting, but did not fire their weapons.

Meidl told The Spokesman-Review late last year after Novak’s plea deal that the Spokane Police Department takes any use of deadly force seriously. The loss of life, he said, is tragic.

The lawsuit sought unspecified and punitive damages on behalf of Bradley’s children.

“His children were shocked that he was shot by the police when he was just unloading his car,” Thorp wrote in a statement.

“They are devastated to have lost their father so needlessly and are having a hard time trusting that the police should really be there to help people, not to kill them on their own property.”

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