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Families behind wrongful death lawsuits speak out

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The families of two men shot and killed by Memphis Police Department officers in January 2013 are speaking out about their losses one day after they filed wrongful death lawsuits against the City of Memphis, Toney Armstrong, and four other police officer The families of two men shot and killed by Memphis Police Department officers in January 2013 are speaking out about their losses one day after they filed wrongful death lawsuits against the City of Memphis, Toney Armstrong, and four other police officer
On January 17, 2013, Steven Askew was shot and killed at the Windsor Place Apartments. Memphis police say they were investigating a noise complaint when they found Askew asleep in his car. On January 17, 2013, Steven Askew was shot and killed at the Windsor Place Apartments. Memphis police say they were investigating a noise complaint when they found Askew asleep in his car.
On January 11, 2013, Donald Moore was shot and killed in his home on Cameron Ridge Trail in Cordova while the TACT unit was serving a search warrant in an animal cruelty investigation after citizens called with concerns that Moore may be an animal "hoarde On January 11, 2013, Donald Moore was shot and killed in his home on Cameron Ridge Trail in Cordova while the TACT unit was serving a search warrant in an animal cruelty investigation after citizens called with concerns that Moore may be an animal "hoarde
"He was a father, grandfather," said Donald's son, Ronald Moore. "Just terrible. It should've never happened like that. I'm at a loss for words." "He was a father, grandfather," said Donald's son, Ronald Moore. "Just terrible. It should've never happened like that. I'm at a loss for words."
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The families of two men shot and killed by Memphis Police Department officers in January 2013 are speaking out about their losses one day after they filed wrongful death lawsuits against the City of Memphis, Toney Armstrong, and four other police officers.

Attorneys for both families filed the complaints late Wednesday afternoon. Each complaint seeks $3 million in damages. But the families say the lawsuits are not about the money.

"These two lawsuits highlight that the innocent folk in our community are not necessarily safe from the police that are there to protect them," attorney Jeff Rosenbloom said.

On January 11, 2013, Donald Moore was shot and killed in his home on Cameron Ridge Trail in Cordova while the TACT unit was serving a search warrant in an animal cruelty investigation after citizens called with concerns that Moore may be an animal "hoarder." The complaint names TACT unit commander Major Charles Morris and officer Phillip Penny as other co-defendants.

"He was a father, grandfather," said Donald's son, Ronald Moore. "Just terrible. It should've never happened like that. I'm at a loss for words."

According to the complaint, Memphis police officers had been warned that Moore was an elderly man with possible mental health issues, who may be dangerous. But they "made no attempts to execute the search warrant in a peaceful manner." The complaint alleges that officers knew Moore had a gun, but instead of calling in an intervention team to calm the situation, a flash bang was thrown into the room where he was hiding and Moore was shot "three times with an M-4 rifle, at close range, without just cause" while Moore was on the phone with 911.

"I don't know what to say, you know. He was taken from us too soon. He should be right here with us and it should've never happened like that," said Ronald.

On January 17, 2013, Steven Askew was shot and killed in his car at the Windsor Place Apartments. Memphis police say they were investigating a noise complaint when they found Askew asleep in his car. At the time, police say Askew pointed a gun at police officers who tried to wake him up and they opened fire. The complaint names officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess as other co-defendants.

"He was a great mentor to kids. His family loved him. His friends loved him. I watched him with pee-wee football programs," said Steven's father, Sterling Askew. "I could go on and go on and go on and say all the loving things that happened to Steven but he's no longer here no more."

According to the complaint, the officers fired a total of 22 rounds, Askew was hit nine times, six in the back, two in the arms, and one in the back of the neck. Steven did not fire his weapon, for which he had a carry permit.

"My wife, she's been tore up. I've had sleepless night. We've had sleepless nights. If you don't know, it's the worst thing you will ever go through in your life is bury your child," said Sterling Askew.

Lawyers for Askew's family say MPD Director Toney Armstrong acknowledged his officers were on "heightened alert" after the death of officer Martoiya Lang, but they were provided additional training or counseling.

The complaint alleges the city and director "created a custom and pattern of practice of exonerating its officers who use excessive force and have allowed Memphis Police officers to believe that they may violate the civil rights of its citizens as long as they allege that they thought the victim had a weapon."

"Based on what we've learned there's no reason for any of these things to have happened," co-counsel Howard Manis said.

The Shelby County District Attorney General's Office declined to prosecute any of the officers involved in these cases. MPD declared both shootings justifiable.

The families of the two men killed by police disagree, saying the shootings were not justified. Their attorneys say the cases were not even thoroughly investigated.

"They ask the officers what happened and as long as the explanation fits the cookie-cutter box of justifiable, stamp it and move it on," said attorney Howard Manis.

"We want the spotlight to be shines in the department so that if improvements need to be made, if changes need to be made, they will be made," added Rosenbloom.

The Moores and Askews say they are prepared to go to a courtroom to get the only thing they've really wanted from the very beginning.

"I haven't been able to find out exactly what happened that night and that's why we're here, because I haven't gotten the answers I should have," said Sterling Askew.

The City of Memphis says it has not been served, nor has it seen copies of the complaints, and cannot comment at this time.

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