WINCHESTER — Did a prone D’Londre Minifield fatally shoot himself in the head in 2016 or was he shot by police as he fled from officers?
The attorney for Minifield’s mother wants a jury to decide in a civil trial scheduled to begin in federal court in Harrisonburg on Aug. 5. But the attorney representing the two Winchester police officers accused in a civil suit of killing Minifield will ask Judge Michael F. Urbanski on Wednesday to throw out the case. The officers were never charged criminally
“This case has just been hanging around and delayed because the plaintiff had multiple lawyers over a long time and sued so many other people,” attorney Julia B. Judkins said on Monday about her motion for summary judgement. “The state examined their guns, and they weren’t fired. So I don’t know what else they’re supposed to do.”
But attorney Christopher E. Brown, who represents Jacqueline Minifield-Brown in the civil suit, said the police account of what happened on Feb. 28, 2016, is filled with inconsistencies that a jury should examine. Rather than an open-and-shut case, Brown argues in a motion to be filed today that it is plausible that Sgt. Christopher Eric Ivins or Officer Stephanie Nan Sills shot Minifield in the back of the head as he climbed a chain-link fence behind the Grace Community Church at 2333 Roosevelt Blvd.
“Failing to acknowledge evidence that supports the plaintiff’s claims doesn’t make [them] go away,” Brown wrote. “There is a clear dispute as to whether the decedent took his own life or was shot by Officer Sills or Officer Ivins.”
The incident began with a fight near a home in the 2000 block of Roosevelt Boulevard, called in to police at 4:05 p.m., according to Winchester and state police reports provided by the Minfield family to The Winchester Star last year. Police were told that a man named Joshua Alexander Brown had been involved in a fight and might be armed. He was never charged.
Shortly afterward, police spotted Devon Irwin Brown, Joshua Brown’s brother. They said he was walking on Wilson Boulevard with a man that turned out to be Minifield. Devon Brown told state police in an interview that he complied with officers’ commands to stop, but Minifield ran.
The pursuit ended behind Grace Community Church at 4:15 p.m., where Ivins and Sills had Minifield cornered. Sills was then a rookie cop in her first few months on the job. Ivins was her field-training officer.
Ivins told state police Minifield stumbled near a snow bank and lay on his stomach with his feet pointed toward Wilson Boulevard and his head toward the fence about 15 yards away from Ivins. Ivins said he repeatedly screamed at Minifield to show his hands, which were under his body, but Minifield refused.
Sills, who was to the left of Ivins, said she fired her Taser at Minifield. According to the state police report, Taser prongs were later removed from Minifield’s dreadlocks. Ivins said he then saw a snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver — the gun was reported stolen from an unlocked vehicle in Frederick County on Nov. 15, 2015 — in Minifield’s right hand.
Ivins said he yelled “Gun!” and was about to shoot at Minifield when Minifield shot himself. Ivins and Sills said they then rolled Minifield over and found the pistol under him. In photos provided by Brown on Monday to The Star, Brown is lying on his back about three feet from the fence with his head turned away from it.
In disputing Ivins and Sills’ account of the death, Brown made several assertions about why the case should go to trial. They include:
Witnesses Kelly Michelle Grafton and Alliyah Green’s statements that they saw Minifield pulled from the fence by police.
Gunshot residue tests were not performed on Ivins, Minifield or Sills.
Blood patterns on and around Minifield were inconsistent with the officers’ account of the shooting.
Questions about which police pistols were provided to state police for ballistics testing.
The shooting report states that DNA testing on blood on the pistol muzzle indicated Minifield couldn’t be eliminated as a contributor. But the chances of another contributor were one in 7.2 billion. However, Brown argued that the revolver may have been planted by police. He cited recent reports of similar instances in police-involved shootings in Baltimore and Chicago in which police were found to have planted guns.
In a separate motion, Brown argued that the jury shouldn’t be informed of the 20-year-old Minifield’s extensive criminal record, which included convictions for malicious wounding and robbery. Brown also said the jury shouldn’t know about toxicological test results on Minifield. The tests said Minifield, who grew up in Winchester and was living in Stephens City, was found to have cocaine and anti-anxiety medication in his system.
Judkins said if the case goes to trial, it’s important the jurors know about Minifield’s record and the drugs in his system. She said they establish motives for him fleeing police.
“He had a [stolen] gun. He was a convicted felon, and there were multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest,” she said. “Plus he had cocaine on him. It was found not only in his system, but on him.”