An unarmed Lynchburg man who was shot by police in his home in 2018 has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the officers of gross negligence and seeking $12 million in damages.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg, contends Lynchburg Police Officers Edward Ferron and Savannah Simmons acted “unreasonably” when they shot Walker Sigler in his Link Road home in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018.
In a news release issued late Tuesday, the Lynchburg Police Department acknowledged it was “aware of the pending litigation against Edward Ferron and Savannah Simmons regarding the Link Road officer- involved shooting from 2018.” Because the case remains active, the department said it could not comment, according to the release.
According to the release, Edward Ferron voluntarily resigned from the Lynchburg Police Department on April 26 and Savannah Simmons is currently on administrative leave without pay pending the result of an internal administrative investigation.
Police have said the officers were investigating an open front door deemed suspicious on the night of the shooting. Sigler, who had been awoken by the police presence, was shot when officers mistook him for an attacker.
The lawsuit comes more than two months after Ferron and Simmons pleaded no contest to criminal charges stemming from the incident. As part of a plea deal, the two avoided jail time and were ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
In Lynchburg Circuit Court, the officer’s lawyers argued the two had reason to believe a crime had been committed inside the home and feared for their safety when they approached the Sigler’s front door.
The civil complaint, however, accuses the officers of violating Sigler’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they entered the home without a warrant.
“There was no justification in law and no reason in fact for their decision to draw their loaded firearms and, without a warrant and without any threat to their safety, to enter the Siglers’ home,” states the complaint, filed by attorney John Lichtenstein.
The complaint also alleges the officers were “grossly negligent” when they opened fire into the Sigler’s home. Police officers hold qualified immunity from civil lawsuits over simple negligence, but have no legal protection when their conduct arises to “gross” negligence.
“Mr. Sigler’s actions were not in any way threatening, and reasonable police officers in the subject circumstances would not have perceived a threat and would not have reacted by firing at the front door and at the closed front door,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Sigler was “catastrophically and permanently injured” as a result of the shooting.
Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.