The family of an unarmed Colorado man who was fatally shot by police in a middle school pick-up line filed a federal civil rights wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday alleging excessive force. Richard Ward, 32, was killed by a Pueblo County sheriff's deputy on Feb. 22, 2022, reports USA Today. He was waiting to pick up his younger brother from school when the deputy dragged him from the vehicle, a struggled ensued and the deputy shot Ward three times in the chest. The two deputies told investigators they feared for their lives, and the district attorney's office determined their actions were justified. Ward was with his mother and her boyfriend waiting to pick up his younger brother in a line of cars parked at Liberty Point International Middle School in Pueblo West While waiting for school to get out, Ward stepped out of the car for a "brief walk." He returned a few minutes later and accidentally entered the wrong white SUV. He realized his mistake, apologized to the surprised driver and got back into his mother's white SUV.
Sheriff’s Deputies Charles McWhorter and Cassandra Gonzales were sent to the school on reports of a "suspicious" man who may be "on something" and was "trying to open doors." McWhorter began questioning Ward. "I'm a little nervous 'cause I don't like cops," Ward can be heard saying in bodycam video. "I have anxiety – they've done things to me." Ward says officers say things like "stop resisting" when people are "not resisting." Ward "cooperatively and politely" answered questions and told McWhorter he had "mistaken" another vehicle for his mother’s SUV. Ward located a "prescribed anti-anxiety tablet" in his pocket and put it in his mouth, the lawsuit said. McWhorter "aggressively demanded" to know what Ward had placed in his mouth and "suddenly grabbed" Ward and dragged him from the SUV. McWhorter and Gonzales threw Ward "violently to the ground, recklessly and deliberately initiating a wholly unnecessary and purposeless physical use of force against and struggle." Ward did not "meaningfully" resist and offered a "paltry attempt at self-defense" while "trapped in the grips of two armed police officers," the complaint said. McWhorter did not warn Ward that he would use deadly force, but shot him three times within seconds, the complaint said.