The mother of a Stinking Creek man killed in an altercation with a Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy and Constable has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming her son’s death was “intentional homicide.”
In a complaint filed June 28, 2017 in U.S. District Court, Pearlie Sue Gambrel alleges that her son, Jessie J. Mills, died in manner that violated his constitutional rights. The complaint describes the actions of Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Mikey Ashurst as “intentional homicide,” though Ashurst was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Knox County Grand Jury following an independent Kentucky State Police investigation.
The lawsuit names Knox County, Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Mikey Ashurst and Knox County Constable Brandon Bolton as defendants.
Deputy Ashurst and Constable Brandon Bolton answered a call on June 29, 2016, reporting a child abduction at Stinking Creek. Upon their arrival, they found Jessie J. Mills, 30, of Stinking Creek, walking in the center of the road with a two-year-old child. The call that evening claimed that Mills was intoxicated at a residence on Moore Creek Road, and had taken the child and left the area. While he did not have custody, Mills was reported to be the child’s father.
When Deputy Ashurst and Constable Bolton found Mills, he was approximately two miles from the residence the complaint originated from. He was instructed to release the child. At that time, Mills charged at Ashurst and Bolton.
In the lawsuit filed June 28, 2017, Elliot Slosar, an attorney with Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, a civil rights firm based in Chicago, stated “We have an unbiased witness and an autopsy report that demonstrate that Officer Ashurst repeatedly tazered Mr. Mills, far more than was necessary to subdue an unarmed man.” Slosar’s statement went on to say “To add insult to injury, Officer Ashurst then repeatedly kicked Mr. Mills while he laid on the ground, writhing in agony and presenting no threat to the officers or anyone else. Officer Ashurst then shot Mr. Mills, not once, but twice, needlessly killing him.”
In addition to the complaints against Deputy Ashurst and Bolton, the lawsuit also alleges the Knox County Sheriff’s Department did not hold Ashurst accountable for his actions because of his status as a police officer, stating in their release “While the criminal courts and Sheriff’s Department have failed the late Mr. Mills and his mother, we will attempt to gain at least a measure of the justice that they deserve,” said Slosar.
According to Kentucky State Police, Deputy Ashurst and Constable Bolton followed proper protocol in handling the situation by giving Mills a verbal warning to stop. When he did not, a Taser was deployed but was ineffective against him. As Mills continued to fight with the officers, a baton was also used to gain his compliance, but was ineffective, leading Deputy Ashurst to use deadly force by shooting Mills.
Following an independent investigation by Kentucky State Police, Deputy Ashurst was cleared by the Knox County Grand Jury on August 29. According to a statement from Kentucky State Police Public Affairs Officer Shane Jacobs, “We presented all of our findings and evidence to the Knox County Grand Jury and they found no true bill against the officer.”
The plaintiffs demand in their lawsuit that the case be taken before a jury, where they are seeking a judgment in their favor, awarding compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees, as well as punitive damages against Deputy Ashurst and Constable Bolton, and any other relief the court may deem appropriate.