The family of a New Orleans police officer who was fatally shot in the line of duty one year ago has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of his stun gun, which failed to subdue the man accused of killing him.
Marcus McNeil’s relatives argue that both his alleged killer, Darren Bridges, and Axon Enterprise — the maker of Taser stun guns — should be held liable for the officer’s wrongful death, according to documents filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Thursday. The suit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
Axon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit Friday — the eve of the anniversary of McNeil’s killing, which marks the deadline to begin pursuing damages in the case.
Bridges, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges related to McNeil’s slaying in Criminal District Court.
A large portion of the 14-page suit describes how it says Taser increased the power of its stun guns after volunteer police officers in the Czech Republic showed that being stunned did not necessarily incapacitate them. However, the lawsuit says, the higher strength meant more people started dying after being “tased,” resulting in a wave of lawsuits, bad publicity and government scrutiny.
The man accused of fatally shooting a New Orleans policeman early Friday managed to recover from being shocked with a stun gun to kill the off…
The company now known as Axon responded by dialing the weapons’ strength back down, according to the lawsuit, which describes the move as shifting the “focus from ‘stopping power’ to ‘stopping lawsuits.’ ”
The result was stun guns that delivered an electric charge too weak to reliably incapacitate attackers, the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit says McNeil received one of those weapons after the New Orleans Police Department gave Axon a five-year contract to equip its officers with stun guns and body-worn cameras in 2014 — a time when the agency was emphasizing nonlethal forms of force as part of a package of federally mandated reforms.
McNeil, 29, encountered Bridges shortly after midnight on Oct. 13, 2017. McNeil and other officers saw Bridges, whom they regarded as suspicious, near Tara Lane and Lake Forest Boulevard.
McNeil was alone when he later found Bridges one block away on Cindy Place. The two men fought there, and McNeil hit Bridges with the barbs from his stun gun in hopes of subduing him, according to police.
Yet Bridges was undeterred, pulling out a gun and shooting McNeil to death, according to the police account.
Bridges was later captured at a nearby apartment after one of McNeil’s colleagues shot and wounded him. Investigators recovered a backpack stuffed with drugs that allegedly belonged to Bridges.
The first indication that New Orleans Police Officer Marcus McNeil had been shot dead Friday came in a chilling radio transmission: "I think …
The lawsuit contends that Axon and Bridges owe McNeil’s family compensation for the suffering that the killing inflicted on them, as well as funeral and medical expenses, among other hardships.
Plaintiffs listed are McNeil’s widow, Brittiny Hubbard McNeil; their two daughters, Maisie and Camille McNeil; McNeil’s son, Jax McNeil; and the boy’s mother, Jene Bowens.
Joseph Ritch, former City Councilman James Carter and several other attorneys represent McNeil’s widow and her daughters. Sharonda Williams, a former city attorney, represents Bowens and her son.
The case was allotted to Civil District Court Judge Christopher Bruno.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office this week said it would not pursue the death penalty against Bridges, who is scheduled to go to trial March 11.
The man accused of killing New Orleans Police Officer Marcus McNeil during a struggle will not face the death penalty, prosecutors said Wednesday.